The answer to whether you can get a settlement from workers’ compensation if you go back to work depends on several factors, including whether your doctor has given you permission to return.
From back injuries to concussions and bone fractures to mesothelioma, numerous injuries and illnesses can result from workplace accidents or hazards.
Fortunately, most employees who become injured or ill on the job can take advantage of workers’ compensation insurance. This coverage can help victims pay for emergency medical treatment, doctor’s visits, and lost wages. According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), in 2015, workers’ compensation laws covered approximately 135.6 million employees.
If it is your first time filing for workers’ compensation benefits, you might have some questions, including, “Can I get a settlement from workers’ compensation if I go back to work?” You want to make sure you know the answer because your employer might want you to return to work as quickly as possible. However, it is also essential to look after your health and ensure you can continue to pay for necessary medical care. Balancing your employer’s needs and your own can require some careful consideration.
How to Know if You Should Return to Work
If you suffer an illness or injury, your priority should be recovery. In determining whether to return to work, consider your doctor’s advice. Generally, a doctor will provide an estimate of when you can return to work upon the onset of your injury or discovery of your illness. This estimate might change depending on your progress. You will want to update your employer with this pertinent information.
Your doctor should determine if you can perform your job duties without exacerbating your condition before clearing you to return. If you are not physically and mentally ready, you risk getting hurt again—possibly worse than the first time. Likewise, if you return to work without a doctor’s OK and suffer another injury, it could affect your ability to collect workers’ compensation benefits.
Your workers’ compensation settlement depends on your ability to return to work, meaning if you do not return to work when cleared, you might not receive any more benefits. However, you could also forfeit workers’ compensation total disability benefits if you return to work before you are able. Disability benefits only get paid when you cannot work for a specific period.
Generally, you can only get a settlement from workers’ compensation if you do not go back to work because seeking one indicates you have severe injuries that require expensive treatment and leave you unable to continue working.
If you go back to work, the workers’ compensation provider might claim you do not need a higher settlement because you can now work. Usually, an employee must reach maximum medical improvement (MMI) before returning to work, meaning a doctor cannot help you improve any further.
Returning to Work with Restrictions
Depending on your injuries, your doctor might recommend you return to work with restrictions. This finding might limit the types of tasks you can perform or make it necessary to do them differently.
Under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), employers cannot discriminate against employees with disabilities, including workers who return to work with a temporary or permanent disability after being injured on the job. The ADA requires employers to provide reasonable accommodations to employees with disabilities who need them unless it leads them to undergo excessive hardship.
How Reasonable Accommodations Could Affect Your Claim
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission explains that reasonable accommodations fall into several broad categories:
- Job restructuring
- Using accrued paid leave or unpaid leave
- Work schedule modification
- Workplace policy changes
- Reassignment to another job
A reasonable accommodation could include allowing a person additional preparation time, providing screen reading software with synthesized speech, or replacing a doorknob with a wheelchair accessible handle. However, employers do not have to restructure essential job functions. If you cannot perform the essential functions of your job because of your disability, your employer might have the legal right to move you to a different position or terminate you from the company.
If you go back to work and must take a lower-paying job with different duties because of your disability, a workers’ compensation settlement might cover the difference in wages.
Contact a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), private industry employers reported 2.8 million nonfatal workplace injuries and illnesses in 2018. Incidents can happen in any industry, even those not typically considered hazardous.
Suffering a workplace injury or illness can be traumatic and stressful. Faced with lost wages and medical bills, you may feel anxious about your present and future financial security. Your stress level likely rises even more when you have severe injuries that leave your ability to return to work in doubt.
A workers’ compensation attorney can help you determine if you should pursue a settlement from workers’ compensation or go back to work. They can also help you negotiate a fair settlement and ensure your employer does their part. Finally, they can fight to get you a settlement from workers’ compensation if you go back to work.
Ben Crump Law, PLLC, is your resource for workers’ compensation support. Call the office at (800) 603-4224 today to schedule a free, no-obligation consultation with a member of the legal team.