Can I Get a Workers Comp Settlement If I Go Back to Work?
You are grateful your employer had workers’ compensation insurance when you injured yourself on the clock. You healed, and now you wonder if going back to work makes sense. Returning to work is a top priority, but you also do not want to risk your workers comp settlement. Protecting your income and your financial health are more important than ever right now. Would you risk losing a settlement by going back to work?
What Does My Doctor Say?
One of the first and best things you can do is check with your workers’ comp doctor. You want to know if your body has not yet healed enough. Even if you return to work, you could harm yourself all over again. If that happens, then your employer has the right to terminate your employment if you cannot adequately perform your duties. Also, going back to work before being medically cleared puts you at risk of losing your temporary disability benefits. You only remain eligible for those when you cannot work for a specific period.
Ensure your doctor knows all your regular job responsibilities to determine what duties you can and cannot perform. Besides asking about your physical level of readiness and recovery, share with your physician if you have any anxiety, depression, stress or other mental health conditions that make you hesitant to return to work even if you are physically ready.
If your doctor clears you for going back to work because your condition cannot improve further, do so as soon as possible. Otherwise, you risk losing your benefits entirely.
Can I Work With Restrictions?
Say that you can go back to work while still undergoing treatment. First, consider yourself lucky you have an employer that wants to support your return to work. Then, under such circumstances, you can work a modified position that adheres to your physician’s list of actions that you can and cannot perform. For instance, you could only receive clearance for work that allows you to sit down. Your new position may pay less than your old one. If so, you still qualify for workers’ comp benefits to cover a percentage of the difference in pay. You may also qualify for a settlement, if you pursue one, because you cannot meet all your financial obligations with your modified position’s pay and benefits combined. Alternatively, if you reject your new work position or restrictive duties, you may not qualify to continue receiving benefits or pursuing a settlement.
Touch base with your supervisor or manager to share a copy of your work restrictions. You may also want to have a copy on you every time you work to be safe. Its also best to establish a return to work procedure between your doctor and employer for the best transparency.
You are well within your rights to push back if you disagree when your employer’s workers’ comp doctor feels you are ready to return to work or work in a reduced capacity. The same applies if your employer treats you poorly because you cannot handle the same job responsibilities as you could before your injury. You know your body better than anyone; you should not push yourself if you feel you are not mentally or physically ready. Consider speaking with a legal representative to explore your options.
Does My Employer Have a Return-to-Work Policy?
Another factor that can help ease you back to work without risking your workers’ comp or a settlement is whether your employer has a solid return-to-work policy in place. Such a policy helps you transition back to your full work responsibilities, or as much as you can, without risking your health. An effective and fair policy ensures that your company understands the severity and nature of your injury and your most current physical restrictions. The policy must also have a plan for offering you reasonable accommodations that safely ease you back to work. A viable return-to-work policy must keep the lines of communication open and strong between injured employee, employer and treating physician.
What if your employer does not have a return-to-work policy? Under workers’ comp law, these employers hold no obligation to keep your position open while you recover. However, most companies are open to bringing injured workers back into the fold. Work with a legal professional to explore the federal Family and Medical Leave Act. Under FMLA, some employers must offer 12 weeks of unpaid leave during 12 months to employees unable to work because of an injury or health condition.
Can I Get Paid for Losing Time Because of Your Work-Related Injury?
Say that your doctor clears you for work and you return to your job. There may be days when your condition forces you to take time off, which is “intermittent time lost”. You just need medical evidence proving that your injury prevented you from working. In this case, workers’ compensation may cover your time off. Just make sure you keep careful records of all the time you miss from work because of your injury and your pay stubs.
What If I Want Out of the Workers’ Comp System?
Under workers’ comp, you may not like how some of your medical treatments are delayed or outright denied. You may feel the medical attention you receive under your employer’s plan leaves much to be desired compared to your personal health insurance policy. You have the option of leaving the workers’ comp system if you like. If you do, you can settle your case for cash. If this feels like the right move, speak with your employer’s physician about your concerns. Consulting with a legal advocate is also a good idea. You must understand your chances of receiving a fair settlement under your specific circumstances.
Work With an Experienced Local Lawyer
While you must focus on recovering as much as possible and retaining employment, do not miss out on receiving as many workers’ comp benefits as you deserve, nor should you risk missing out on any potential settlement to which you are legally entitled. Don’t go through this alone. Turn your situation over to a legal professional who knows the law and can protect your rights. Submit a request online or call us today at (866) 345-6784 to get in touch with an experienced lawyer in your area!