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If you’ve suffered an injury in a work-related accident, workers’ compensation will help cover not only your medical expenses but also a percentage of lost wages for time away from work. This is a great opportunity to rest at home and recuperate from your injuries. Even so, you may feel tempted to use your time off to engage in other activities.
Many employees have attempted to extend their time on workers’ compensation to reap further benefits. Some also take on additional part-time work to earn income while receiving benefits. Both types are guilty of committing workers’ compensation fraud. But what about working from home?
Remote work has opened up work opportunities, allowing for employees to work from virtually anywhere without going to a physical office. These jobs are easy to access and may even allow the employee to earn some money while recovering from the injury covered by workers’ comp.
This may make working at home seem like an attractive option for those recovering from injuries. Unfortunately, those who are on workers’ compensation may not be in as great a position for working from home as it may seem.
The person who took on part-time work while on workers’ compensation in our earlier example was guilty of workers’ compensation fraud. This is because compensation benefits are meant to make up for the loss of wages from being unable to work, not just paying medical bills. By performing extra work for income, the individual is, in fact, suited to perform work and should return to his or her job.
Remote and at-home work is no different. While one may not need to perform the same strenuous tasks as one’s regular work, he or she is still earning income. This means that the money distributed by workers’ compensation isn’t necessary to make up for lost wages from being unable to work. Since the employee is working, he or she is committing fraud.
The amount of workers’ compensation fraud through at-home work has increased in recent years. Unlike taking on part-time work in a physical location, at-home work is harder for employers and insurance companies to recognize and prove, making it a prime method for fraud.
Workers’ compensation fraud is subject to strict penalties. Often an individual who has committed compensation fraud is subject to charges from both the insurer and the public prosecutor.
In some workers’ compensation cases, you may be on “light duty” instead of a full work restriction. This means that you may perform some work but are restricted from performing other tasks. You can still qualify for compensation depending on the extent of work you can do. For instance, if you are on light duty and can only work a limited number of hours, you may receive compensation for your un-worked hours.
During your period of light duty, you must report any income to your employer or the workers’ compensation insurer so that they may account for your proper amount of required compensation. Failure to report any income, even while on light duty, is also subject to civil or criminal prosecution.
Workers’ compensation benefits are meant to allow employees time to recover from their injuries. Failing to behave appropriately while on leave from work can cost you your benefits and call your claim into question. While you may feel able to do work from home, earning additional money when you should be recovering constitutes fraud.
California insurance fraud law requires proof of intent to prosecute a case. If you have unknowingly committed insurance fraud by conducting work at home, consult with a skilled workers’ compensation lawyer to receive help managing the potential legal consequences.