The best-case scenario after a work injury is that you get the treatment you need, heal quickly, and get back to your regular job and hours as soon as possible. Unfortunately, this does not always happen. Treatment can be denied and delayed. You can face setbacks in your recovery. You may even reinjure yourself returning to work. Perhaps you are seeking modified work requirements so you can return to work sooner only to have your employer refuse to accommodate. Perhaps worse yet, your employer may have to fill your position while you are out. Given the uncertainty of a return to work after an injury, it is beneficial to have a workers’ compensation attorney assist you with this process.
Returning To Work After a Workers’ Compensation Injury
As your recovery progresses, and your doctor prepares you to return to work, you should remain in contact with your employer to plan your reentry. Once you have been cleared for full work duties, you are not eligible for workers’ compensation lost wage benefits but your medical coverage can continue. If you are released for light duty or modified duty work, and your employer chooses to accommodate your medical restrictions, the same rules apply.
Returning to Work and Lost Wage Benefits
If you are back to work and earning your regular wages, your workers’ compensation lost wage benefits will end, but your medical coverage, if necessary, can continue. A more complex situation arises when you go back to work but with restrictions that lead you to earn less than your pre-injury wages. Under these circumstances, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation payments for your “actual reduced earnings,” which typically amount to 2/3 of the difference between your pre-injury wage and those earned during the course of modified job requirements.
Restoring Pre-Injury Wages and Finding Employment
If your doctor permits you to return to work with restrictions and your employer does not offer you light duty or modified work, you may be eligible for partial workers’ compensation payments and unemployment benefits.
If you are unable to return to your job, there are services associated with the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board that can assist with re-training and job search efforts.
How Returning to Work on WC Affects You
Clients often ask us how a return to work will impact the resolution of their claim. As noted above, in most cases, medical coverage continues after you return to work, so it is beneficial to keep your claim open.
A workers’ compensation settlement, after a return to work, is generally limited to the value of potential future medical expenses. If you have the type of injury that results in a “schedule loss of use” permanency award, you do remain entitled to the award after returning to work. Lewis & Lewis can help you make the important decisions involved after a work injury.