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Are employers liable for painkiller overdose and death?

Workers who are injured on the job are often given prescription opioid medications to help relieve the pain. While these drugs can provide much-needed respite from severe pain, in some cases the drugs can lead to addiction or even overdose and death. When this happens, employers and workers' compensation providers may be liable for providing addiction treatment or death benefits. In some cases, employers have been found responsible even in circumstances where injured workers took the drugs incorrectly, or drank alcohol while taking the drugs. 

The success of such claims, brought by injured workers themselves or the spouses of deceased workers, hinges on the fact that the negative effects of opioid medications wouldn't have happened in the first place had the worker's employer or insurer not approved or prescribed the drugs in the first place. 

Some insurers have begun shying away from prescribing prescription opioids to injured workers for fear of risking addiction and other complications. For some insurers, however, prescription opioids are the go-to answer for dealing with workers' pain, for better or worse. If you're an injured worker taking prescription painkillers under any of the following circumstances, you may be risking an outcome that is, in fact, worse: 

  • You take a high dose of prescription painkillers.
  • You've been taking prescription painkillers for a long period of time.
  • You take several different kinds of painkillers.
  • While taking prescription painkillers, you also drink alcohol, take sleeping pills, antidepressants or antianxiety medications. 
  • You have sleep apnea, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), heart failure, obesity or respiratory disease. 

It's difficult enough to be in pain from an injury; but it's even worse when the medication prescribed to help relieve that pain results in addiction or an overdose death. If you or a loved one has been injured as a result of a prescription painkiller prescribed through workers' compensation, speak with an attorney to learn your rights and explore the possibility of compensation. 



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