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returning to work after a job injury

If you want results, call us. If you want peace of mind, call us. If you want representation who understands the hardship that has been thrust upon you, call us.

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The workers’ compensation injury attorneys at DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo have put together the following information to help you with all of the difficult questions regarding going back to work or accepting/declining a job offer from your employer. We have helped thousands of people who have been hurt at work since 1979. We would be happy to setup a free initial consultation and case evaluation to assist you with your specific injury. Contact us at any time at (888) 516-8530 to discuss your questions and legal options. Ask around and you will find that we have a reputation for being some of the best attorneys for workers’ compensation claims, third party cases and personal injury cases.

I would like to return to work.

It is true that your decision about returning to work, and what you will be allowed to do, will be influenced by your doctor, your employer and the claims administrator. As a general rule of thumb for all legal proceedings, communicate honestly and frequently with each of them for the best results. If your doctor does end up deciding that you cannot return to work while you are recovering from your job injuries then you can clearly not be required to go back to your job.

In some cases, you will be allowed to go back to your job with work restrictions if your employer is willing to make the prescribed accommodations. If your doctor does say that you can go back to work with restrictions but your employer is unwilling to accommodate the restrictions and mandated changes, you are not required to return to work. Depending on your injuries, though, you may be eligible for temporary disability, supplemental job displacement benefits, vocational rehabilitation, or permanent disability benefits. Be sure to read our pages on each of those to find out more about your rights.

How and when is my ability to return to work determined?

Several individuals will work with you to decide when you can return to work and what work you will be allowed to do. These people include the following:

  • Your treating doctor;
  • Managers who represent your employer; and
  • The claims administrator handling your claim.

It is definitely possible that doctors and claims administrators will not fully understand your job or other potential jobs that could be assigned to you. That is why it is important that everyone stay in close contact throughout the process. You (and your attorney if you decide to have one) should constantly communicate with your employer, your treating doctor, and the claims administrator about:

  • The work that you performed before your work injury or job accident;
  • Your medical condition and the types and length of work that you can do now; and
  • The kinds of work you believe that your employer may make available to you.

Can I work during my recovery?

The treating doctor will examine you and they will send a written report to the claims administrator about your condition and potential condition. If the treating doctor says you are able to work, they will most likely describe in the written report:

  • Clear, set and specific limits, if any, on the tasks you can do while recovering and the length of those tasks. These are called work restrictions. They are intended to protect you from further injury or prolonging the recovery process. An example of work restrictions is: No work that requires bending, stooping or reaching.
  • Changes that are needed, if any, to your schedule, equipment, assignments, and/or other working conditions while recovering. An example of this is: The employer should provide a headset to avoid awkward positions for the head, shoulders and neck while the employee is on the phone.

An important fact to remember is that if the treating doctor decides that you cannot work at all while you are recovering, then you legally cannot be required to work.

Can I work if I have work restrictions?

If your treating doctor decides that you can return to work but only with specific work restrictions, any work that your employer assigns to you must meet these restrictions. Your employer could decide that work with those restrictions is just not available. In that case, you cannot be required to go back to work.

What if I have no work restrictions?

Your employer is usually required to give you the same job and pay you had before you were injured if the treating doctor decides that you can return to work with no restrictions. Keep in mind that the employer has the right to require you to take the job. This could happen soon after the job injury or it could happen much later after your recovery.

What if I do not fully recover? (But I do reach MMI).

Your treating doctor could determine that you may never be able to return to the same job and working conditions you had before you had the work injury. The doctor should report this in writing to all parties involved. The report should include permanent work restrictions to protect you from further injury. You should then receive an offer to return to regular, alternative or modified work – or not – from your employer, depending on what the treating doctor’s written report says. You have a right (and we recommend you do so) to review the full doctor’s report.

What are my options if my employer offers me work?

If your employer is offering you work, the potential job must meet the work restrictions in the treating doctor’s written report. The job offer could involve:

  • Your employer offers you regular work: Your old job, paying the same wages and benefits as paid at the time of the work injury. It must also be located within a reasonable commuting distance from where you lived at the time of your injury.
  • Your employer offers you modified work: Your old job, with some changes and restrictions that allow you do to it. If your treating doctor determines that you will not be able to return to the job you had at the time of your job injury or work accident, your employer is encouraged to offer you modified work instead of vocational rehabilitation benefits or supplemental job displacement benefits.
  • Your employer offers you alternative work: A new job with your former employer. If your doctor says you will not be able to return to the job you had at the time of your work injury, your employer is encouraged to offer you alternative work instead of supplemental job displacement benefits or vocational rehabilitation benefits. The alternative work must meet your work restrictions, last at least one year in duration, pay you at least eighty-five percent of the wages and benefits you were paid at the time of the job accident or workplace injury, and be within a reasonable commuting distance of where you lived at the time the injury took place.

If your employer offers you modified or alternative work:

  • You probably will only have thirty days to accept the offer. If you don’t respond within thirty days, your employer most likely has the right to withdraw the modified or alternate job offer.
  • The claims administrator probably will not be required to give you vocational rehabilitation benefits if you received a reasonable job offer. This is true regardless of whether you accept the offer or not.
  • Your weekly permanent disability benefits may also be reduced if you decline the job offer. Seek legal help from a lawyer or the information and assistance officer if you need help weighing these options.

What if my employer does not offer me a job of any kind?

If this is the case, your weekly permanent disability benefits may be increased by 15% if you work for a company that has fifty or more employees. Consult with an attorney or the information and assistance officer to confirm this, though, as this part of the law is adjusted frequently.

What if the job my employer offered does not work out?

Depending on your date of injury, there is still the chance that you may be entitled to vocational rehabilitation services or supplemental job displacement benefits if the job does not last for one year or your disability ends up preventing you from performing the tasks involved in the job. If you have concerns about this, talk to your employer or the claims administrator. If that doesn’t help, call a state information & assistance officer.

What are my options if I disagree with my treating doctor’s opinion about the work I can do or the duration that I can do it for?

It is definitely possible that different doctors may have different opinions about a worker’s ability to do tasks safely and without getting reinjured. You do have the right to question or disagree with a report written by your treating doctor. To dispute the doctor’s report about your ability to work or the work restrictions that you need to do a task:

  • If you do not have an attorney, you need to send a letter to the claims administrator stating that you disagree with the report. You must send the letter within thirty days of receiving the treating doctor’s report.
  • If you have an attorney, contact them right away. In this case, the deadline for stating your disagreement is twenty days.
  • You will then be allowed to get a medical evaluation from another doctor.

What are my options if I do not agree with my employer about the work or tasks that were assigned or offered to me?

If your employer assigns or offers you work that does not meet the work restrictions that were required by your treating doctor, you do not have to accept the offer. Always keep in mind that it is illegal for an employer to discriminate against you because you requested workers’ compensation benefits or because you have a disability. Also remember, though, that your employer is not always required to offer you a job and they are definitely not required to offer a job that you necessarily like.

we are available to help you

The Workers’ Compensation Law Firm of DiMarco | Araujo | Montevideo: (888) 516-8530

We are available by phone twenty-four hours a day to help you however you need us. Decisions to return to work or whether to accept a job offer are very import and it is critical that you know the ramifications of your decisions. All initial case consultations and evaluations are free. If you do decide to bring us on as your lawyers, you will not incur any legal fees or costs for our time and assistance unless we win the case. We are ready and available to meet at our office, your home or hospital room Monday – Friday 8:30am to 5:30pm. If you prefer evenings or weekends, we are also available then by appointment in Orange County and across Southern California.