Every year over 2% of employees suffer a nonfatal injury in the workplace. Most of them are eager to get back to their daily schedule, but returning to work after a workers’ comp accident can inhibit or even worsen your condition if you go back too early.
Workers’ compensation insurance was designed to benefit injured employees just like you. But all too often, they feel pressure to go back to work as soon as possible after a workplace injury.
Don’t “suck it up” and don’t rush your recovery! If you’ve suffered a work injury, you need to understand your rights about returning to work after a workers’ comp claim.
Understand Your Rights
While your employer should be concerned about your well-being, they’ll likely want you to return to work as soon as possible. After all, every day you’re not working is another day that your job isn’t getting done.
You may even feel pressured to speed up (or even skip) your recovery process to meet this demand.
Remember, if you’ve successfully filed a workers’ compensation claim, you have rights. Just because your employer pays you and dictates your job responsibilities doesn’t mean they can determine your recovery timeline.
Furthermore, it’s illegal for an employer to infer threats of losing your position or being reprimanded for failing to return to work after a workers’ comp claim has been filed if you haven’t been cleared to do so. The law is on your side.
Refer To Your Employer’s Policy
Another reason not to let a superior influence how soon you return to work are your employer’s existing policies.
Your employer’s handbook or the contract that you signed upon job acceptance may have this scenario outlined. These handbooks’ and contracts’ verbiage will vary, but it’s highly unlikely that they are going to instruct you to compromise your recovery from a workplace injury by returning to work too soon.
Immediately obtain a copy of any employee handbooks and review them with your workmans’ comp lawyer. You and your employer should be able to use the existing guidelines to create a reasonable timeline for returning to work after workers’ comp.
Listen To Your Doctor
The most important thing is what the doctors are saying.
The measuring stick for when you’re physically healthy enough to return to work should be cleared by your authorized treating physician. Until he or she determines going back to work won’t risk further injury to yourself, refrain from returning.
Even if you feel well enough, compromising your recovery from your workers’ comp injury by returning to work too soon can create a more complicated situation. Use a doctor’s documentation if needed for proof of a recovery timeline.
Your workmans’ comp lawyer can also provide affirmation.
Know Your Limitations
Once you’re well enough to return to work and your doctor provides clearance, be aware of your condition. There may be tasks you are not be able to fully perform right away.
Have your doctor notate if there are certain duties you shouldn’t be doing, such as operating machinery or heavy lifting. Make sure you provide your employer with a copy of your restrictions and it is a good practice to keep a copy of same (provided by your authorized treating physician) on your person while at work.
Request accommodations if needed once you return to work. This can include modified tasks or accessibility to certain areas.
If you are cleared for light duty and your employer can accommodate the restrictions your doctor has set for you, you must take the job available if you want to keep your lost wages being paid as workers’ comp benefits. However, if your condition continues to get worse, see your authorized treating physician immediately to discuss this.
The Aftermath of a Work Injury
Suffering from an injury is traumatizing enough, but receiving it in the workplace is even more difficult. It can seem like a double-edged sword. Your employer provides stability, but returning too soon can hurt your health.
Fortunately, you don’t have to fight it alone.
Are you dealing with a work injury and unsure how soon you’re legally obligated to return to work? Schedule a free consultation with workers’ comp attorney Brian D. Tadros today and learn more about the representation you deserve.