Returning to Work After Workplace Injury
If you’re currently receiving workers compensation benefits after an injury on the job, you could be wondering: “Do I have to go back to work after my workers compensation ends?” You must only return to work after a medical professional has evaluated you and confirmed you are recovered from your injury.
Your employer and your employer’s insurance company have a financial interest in seeing you return to work sooner. However, you should only return to work once you have recovered fully from your work related injury.
If you are feeling pressured to return too soon, or want to understand if you have a workers compensation claim to begin with, contact Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys today for a free consultation. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help guide you through the workers’ compensation process.
When Do I Have to Return to Work after Workers Compensation?
The only reason you should return to work after a workplace injury is if that injury has properly healed. Otherwise, you open yourself up to further injury or inability to fully recover in the longterm. An injured employee should only return to work if:
- You have recovered. A medical professional should be monitoring your recovery from a medical perspective. Coupled with this information, you can also determine your ability to physically complete work-related tasks.
- Medical professionals clear you for work. Your doctor will tell you when you medically can return to work, based on their expertise and testing. They may also ask if you feel comfortable as well in your return.
- You have reached maximum medical improvement. In many cases, you may technically be able to return to work before you reach your maximum medical improvement (MMI) as determined by a doctor. In some workers compensation cases, you may not be cleared to return to work until you have reached maximum medical improvement.
What if my Employer Offers Light Duty Work?
If you have been injured during a physically demanding job, bt are able to do other kinds of work, your employer may offer what is called light duty work. This work would still need to follow physician recommendations, including how physically demanding the tasks are, how many hours you can work, and other restrictions.
If your doctor agrees with this light duty work, your employer can look for a position that fits the needs, or modify your current position to remove any danger to aggravating your injury. It is also imperative you follow doctors orders and not go above and beyond what you are able to do when performing light duty work. If you do not, and you re-injure yourself, it could mean long term damage or further injury.
Can You Refuse Your Employer’s Light-Duty Work Offer?
No. If your employer has complied with all physical recommendations, you will likely have to accept an offer for a new light duty job. In fact, under Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation law, an injured employee must accept a light duty job if the employer has made doctor required accommodations.
If you return to work and feel like the job duties have not been modified, you have a case to continue recovering from your workers comp injury at home. However, to navigate a refusal, you may need an experienced workers compensation attorney by your side.
What is a Workers Compensation Return to Work Letter?
When a doctor clears you to return to your previous job, you will receive a return to work letter. This puts in writing to your employer and your insurance company that you have been evaluated and it has been determined you are recovered and able to perform your job duties.
In some cases, this letter will outline restrictions you still have after your injury or during your recovery. These are restrictions or accommodations your insurance company and employer needs to be aware of as you return to work.
If a return to work letter is written by your insurance company doctor, and you feel was erroneous or written prematurely in your recovery, you can appeal. Get a second opinion. In some cases, another doctor may confirm you are not yet ready to return to work and you must continue to receive workers compensation benefits. However, for your best chance of winning, you will need a workers compensation lawyer to help protect you on your road to recovery.
Creating a Safe Return to Work Plan
The best way to make sure your return to work at a previous job is as safe for all parties involved, is to create an agreed upon return to work plan. This plan is even more important if your doctor is only clearing you if accommodations or restrictions need to be present for you to return. This could be because you are still at risk for aggravating your injury, or because your injury has left you partially disabled.
Your return to work plan should include:
- Clear communication between all parties. You should feel confident that your doctor is communicating to your employer, insurance company and anyone else who needs to be informed. You should also feel confident that your employer is listening to your doctor’s recommendations and is comfortable following them to ensure you have a safe workplace.
- List of ways your employer plans to accommodate your restrictions. More than just a general acknowledgment, your employer should provide a detailed list of the ways you will be accommodated. This can range from modified job duties to any special equipment or circumstances you will need, within reason.
Can My Employer Fire Me If I Don’t Return to Work Quickly?
Your employer may not fire you for filing a workers compensation claim, or for receiving workers compensation benefits. However, many companies do not like prolonged workers compensation claims or injured workers out for an extended time. So this does not mean they won’t find other reasons to let you go.
Insurance companies and employers have financial reasons to want your return to work to be swift. They don’t want to pay out workers comp benefits for too long or be without injured employees for long periods. If you are feeling pressured to return to work too soon, speak to a workers compensation lawyer immediately.
Even worse, if you were fired or laid off after filing a workers compensation claim, contact a workers compensation lawyer immediately. We offer a free consultation or free case evaluation. We only get paid if we win you a fair settlement.
Munley Law Personal Injury Attorneys Experienced Workers Compensation Attorneys
Dealing with the pressure of when to return to work after a workplace injury can place undue stress on an injured worker. If you are asking, “do I have to go back to work after my workers’ compensation ends?” the answer can be complicated. Yes, but only after you have been cleared by a doctor to return to work. Until you are recovered, you are entitled to your workers’ compensation benefits.
A workers compensation claim can be complicated. Injured workers should not have to fight alone, or be pressured to return to work too early. This could cause further injury or worse, long-term physical limitations.
The best way to help injured workers navigate the workers comp process is to do so with an experienced workers compensation attorney by your side. They can help you gather evidence, ensure you are receiving proper medical treatment, and negotiate with your employer and insurance. We have been fighting on behalf of workplace injury victims for more than 60 years.
Contact us today for a free consultation.