COVID-19 UPDATE: Though our physical office is curently closed to the public, we are open to during normal business hours, working remotely, and accepting new clients. For any inquiries please contact us at 206-682-3436 or email us at

Worker’s Compensation Claims and Pain Medication

Posted by Christine Foster on January 20, 2017

Part One: The Issue

Many of our current and former clients are dealing with chronic pain from their work injuries. We see chronic pain management as one of the biggest issues for our clients and one that is affecting injured workers across the country. According to the CDC, more than 16,000 Americans died from prescription painkiller overdoses in 2013– quadruple the total in 1999.

In a 2014 study by the Workers Compensation Research Institute examining 264,000 claims from 25 states, researchers found that 65 to 85 percent of injured workers in most states received narcotic painkillers.

Opioids, a group of drugs which includes oxycodone and morphine, are prescribed by doctors to relieve pain, but can affect safety, health and productivity. The highly addictive drugs also can result in side effects such as confusion, drowsiness and nausea. When an injured worker becomes addicted to these opioids, they can have multiple adverse effects:

  • Safety — Workers who are addicted to painkillers sometimes return to work in a standard or light duty capacity, where they can pose a risk to themselves and others. This could lead to another on-the-job injury or a worsening of the current injury.
  • Claim Delays – Workers who may be seen as “addicts” have a higher risk of losing their benefits or having delays in getting their treatment approved.        
  • Delay in Return to Work – Injured workers given high doses of opioid painkillers end up spending significantly more time off work due to their injuries than workers given alternative treatments or lower doses of painkillers. Once someone becomes addicted to narcotics, their tolerance increases which often means increasing doses. As their dosage increases, they generally become less and less able to return to work.

For the acute injury, these opioids can be extremely effective and helpful, but over the long term, injured workers who are put on high doses of the drugs can develop chronic pain and face extended treatment time. In an ideal world, our clients would be offered additional ways to treat their pain. We will examine alternatives and potential solutions in Part Two.

If you have suffered a work-related injury or illness and you have questions or concerns about your workers’ compensation benefits or your legal rights and entitlements, please contact Foster Law, PC to schedule a free initial consultation. We are attorneys in Seattle, Washington with specific expertise in workers' compensation law and can help ensure that you receive the benefits you deserve. Call 206-682-3436 or use our contact form below for more information.

Contact Us