Baehman Law

What happens to workers' compensation when you start to improve?

Here's a common scenario you could experience: You're seriously injured on the job and have to take time off work. Eventually, your doctor says you can return to work, but with restrictions.

What are your obligations? What are your options?

1. You have to notify your employer

Workers' compensation is an insurance benefit. As such, you're obligated to notify your employer when your disability status changes -- even if you think that there's no possible position that you can return to at your job given your current restrictions.

2. You may be offered light-duty work

Not all employers do this. Some employers will do so as a genuine benefit to ease an injured worker back into the workplace. Others are purposefully trying to get injured workers off their benefits. Those are the employers you have to watch out for because they may push you to do work that exceeds the scope of your limitations.

You could be putting your workers' comp in danger if you refuse a reasonable light-duty job assignment. However, you do not have to accept one that would require you to violate your doctor's orders (or is somehow otherwise unreasonable).

3. You could still be entitled to benefits

If you're being paid at or near the same level you were before your injury, your cash benefits may stop once you start light-duty work. That does not mean your medical benefits end, however. In addition, if you're earning significantly less because the light-duty work doesn't pay as well or you have reduced hours, you may still receive a partial payment from workers' comp.

If you're working on recovering your health, you don't need a hassle from your employer. If a light-duty position seems to be more than you can handle and your employer isn't being reasonable, talk to an attorney about your rights and what steps you can take next.

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