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Returning to Work After a Worker's Compensation Claim

Independent Medical Examination
You likely want to go back to work after filing a worker's compensation claim so that you can continue to provide for yourself and your family. But before you return to your past job or seek new employment, you should understand the implications of your decision.
Here is a guide to help you learn more about going back to work after filing for worker's compensation benefits.

Maximum Medical Improvement

The decision as to whether you can go back to work lies with your doctor. Depending on the extent of your injuries or illness, your doctor may decide that you are fit to perform the same duties you did before your injury.
In other instances, if you have reached the maximum medical improvement and are still not back to your normal state before the injury, your doctor may recommend that you work fewer hours or perform lighter duties. Maximum medical improvement is the maximum level of healing you can possibly achieve.
On the other hand, your doctor may recommend that you do not perform any type of work. This means you are not fit to go back to work or take up any other job, even if the job entails performing light duties.
To help the doctor decide if you can return to work in the same or in a different capacity, be sure to offer accurate information about the nature of your job.

Independent Medical Examination

As part of your worker's compensation claim process, your employer's insurer may ask that you undertake an independent medical examination (IME). In some instances, your independent doctor may say you are unfit to return to work or that you can only perform light duties, which might conflict with what the doctor representing your employer's insurance company may say.
If you do not feel ready to work in your previous capacity in spite of the insurance company's insistence, speak to a doctor and an attorney who can help you retain your right to disability benefits. Do not feel compelled to go back to work and, more so, attempt to perform your previous tasks if you are not physically ready. This can jeopardize your benefits and increase your risk of re-injury.

Employer Obligation

Once you are away from work due to an injury or illness, your employer is not required to preserve your job position. However, if a position is available, your employer may offer you a job if you are fit to return to work.
The offer may be for your previous job and will pay the same wages before your injury, or it might be for a modified job where you return to your old job but perform lighter duties according to the doctor's restrictions, for at least 85% of the wages you were receiving before the injury.
Alternatively, your employer may offer alternative work if you cannot perform your old job. This new job with your employer should pay at least 85% of the pre-injury wages.
If your doctor says that you are fit to work and your employer offers work, you should accept the offer within 30 days. Refusal to accept a job offer can cause you to lose your right to temporary disability benefits.

Continuation of Benefits

If you return to work in a position where you are earning less than what your employer paid you before the injury, you may continue to receive temporary or permanent partial disability payments. In the event you return to work and perform the same tasks you did before the injury, your employer and the insurance company may determine that you are no longer injured and they might terminate your disability benefits.
The stakes are high whether you want to apply for worker's compensation or you are considering going back to work after an injury. Speak to our experienced attorneys at the Law Offices of Goldberg & Ibarra to protect your interests when dealing with the worker's comp system.