Because no two injuries are exactly alike and every person heals differently, there’s no hard and fast rule about when you should return to work after a workers’ compensation claim. Assessing when an injured person is fit to return to work should always be done on an individual basis.
However, this creates a lot of room for unfair manipulation by employers and insurance companies who are eager to stop losing money on the direct and indirect costs of an employee’s workers’ compensation-related absence.
What this means is that, to protect yourself, you have to be armed with proper knowledge. Pay close attention to the information on this article, and for further clarity, book a free consultation with a workers’ compensation attorney.
Let’s dive right into what you MUST know about returning to work after a workers’ comp claim.
Don’t Rush the Process; Wait Until You’re Physically Capable
It is not uncommon to have employers and insurance companies pressuring you to return to work. Sometimes they may offer juicy incentives. DON’T GIVE IN. Returning to work earlier than you should severely affects your recovery process and may cause you to get re-injured. I’m sure you don’t want that.
The determination of when you’re ready to return to work should be made between you and your doctor. Even though you may be eager to get back to work it’s not advisable until you’ve received clearance from your doctor.
Suppose your employer or insurance company feels you should resume work while your doctor thinks otherwise. In that case, the Department of Industrial Accidents (DIA) may order an Independent Medical Examination (IME).
In many cases, the doctor you see for an IME may conclude that you’re capable of working at a higher physical level than your doctor says. If this happens, contact a workers’ comp lawyer immediately.
So, what happens when you do go back to work? As you may have noticed, it’s a bit complicated but I promise to touch on every important point.
Know Your Restrictions and Communicate Them
You should provide your doctor with comprehensive information about your work duties. This way, he can know when you’re able to fully return to carrying out those tasks.
In some cases, your doctor may clear you to return to work but with some restrictions. Ask your doctor to provide a written note that clearly states your limitations. Present a copy to your employer and keep one for yourself. If, for any reason, your employer fails to honor those restrictions when you return to work, you shouldn’t let them put your health at risk. Contact a workers’ compensation lawyer immediately.
Return to Work (RTW) Policy
Many companies have a Return to Work (RTW) policy. This policy is in place to give sick and injured employees a soft return back to work. One of the benefits of RTW policy is that it eases injured employees back to the working environment and among supportive employees without putting their health at risk.
However, some RTW policies are plain selfish. The companies focus on conserving funds that would otherwise be spent due to the absence of a valuable worker. So they plug this hole by using policies to lure employees back to work without a care in the world about their state of health.
Before you rush back to work based on RTW policy, get a workers’ comp lawyer to iron out the terms with your employer.
And sometimes, the terms may look good on paper, but then, employers have a hard time adhering to them. At this point, you should contact a Boston workers’ compensation lawyer.
Test the Waters: Go Back to Work for a Trial Period
If you’ve been injured and out of work for a while, sometimes it isn’t easy to know when you’re physically able to get back to work. In some cases, you just have to give it a try to find out. Luckily, the law covers you on this one.
Massachusetts’ law allows workers to take a shot at work on a trial basis to see if they’re ready. The trial period lasts for 28 days. Within the trial period, you can choose to back off if you don’t feel up to it and request your health benefits to be reinstated.
If a worker fails to notice that they’re incapable of carrying out their work duties within the 28-day trial period, and then later realizes their limitations they may have to go through the long and winding road of filing for a whole new workers’ compensation claim.
Pro Tip: When you do get back to work, your employers may want to have you sign some papers regarding your case. They may trivialize and sugarcoat the documents by saying things like: “It’s just to help us process your final compensation check.”
Don’t fall for it. In fact, don’t sign any papers without having your workers’ compensation lawyer review them.
Hopefully, you found the information here useful.
As you may have noticed, deciding when and how to return to work after an injury can be complicated and you’ll benefit from a workers’ compensation attorney virtually every step of the way.