For most employees, one of their biggest questions after an on-the-job injury is whether they need to go back to work, and when. The answer will vary depending on the severity of the injury and the recovery process, as well as whether the injury caused a lasting disability, but our work injury attorneys can offer specific insight on this issue as it applies to Pennsylvania workers’ compensation claims.
If you were injured at work and sought workers’ compensation benefits, you should only return to work once you are cleared by your doctor and feel ready to do so. Your employer should not be able to force you to go back to work, but there are some things you should know about this.
Returning to Work After an Independent Medical Examination (IME)
Part of the Pennsylvania workers’ compensation process involves an Independent Medical Examination (IME), which is essentially an evaluation of your condition by a medical professional. This medical professional is typically chosen by your employer’s workers’ comp insurance company.
After an IME, you may receive a “Notice of Ability to Return to Work” if the examining physician determined that you should be physically able to perform your job duties. In some cases, the physician may determine that you can perform some of your duties, which would essentially mean returning to work with restrictions or limitations.
If the company doctor believes you can return to work, your employer may file a petition to suspend or terminate your workers’ compensation benefits. This is normal, and it makes sense if you are able to return to your job duties and full pay. If you disagree with the decision made by the company doctor after your IME, however, you have the right to dispute this. It is also important to note that your benefits won’t stop automatically; a workers’ compensation judge must review the case.
When there is a disagreement about returning to work after an on-the-job injury, a hearing will be held. This will be your opportunity to present your case and your reasons (along with supporting medical documentation) for not returning to work.
Light-Duty Work: Returning to a Job with Restrictions/Limitations
If the company doctor determined that you can return to work with restrictions or limitations, you can seek a second opinion if you disagree. You may also be entitled to ongoing workers’ compensation benefits if the light-duty job pays less than your last job, and workers’ comp should still pay ongoing medical costs related to your injury.
To look at a hypothetical example of this in action, let’s consider that Robert suffered a back injury in a fall at the construction site where he was working. Robert filed a workers’ compensation claim and received treatment for his injury. Upon receiving an Independent Medical Examination (IME), the doctor determined that Robert was well enough to work but could not perform the heavy lifting that was associated with his previous job. Robert’s employer offered him an administrative job that did not require physical exertion.
If Robert made the same amount of money in his new administrative job and no longer required medical care for his injury, his workers’ compensation benefits would end. If his new job paid less, however, he might be entitled to benefits to make up part or all of the difference. If he required ongoing treatment, like physical therapy or medication, workers’ compensation should cover this.
What to Do After Receiving a Notice of Ability to Return to Work
If you have been receiving workers’ compensation benefits and received a Notice of Ability to Return to Work, it is important to remember that the decision of the doctor who performed your IME is an opinion. You have the right to seek a second opinion, and you have the right to a hearing if you believe that your benefits should continue. The best thing to do is to talk to your workers’ comp lawyer as quickly as possible once you receive any notice regarding your benefits or an IME.
How a Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Attorney Can Help
A qualified attorney can help you in several ways regarding your return to work. This includes:
- Reviewing your Notice of Ability to Return to Work or any other important notices or documents that you receive regarding your workers’ compensation benefits.
- Arranging for you to get a second opinion if the company doctor determined you are ready to return to work, but you disagree.
- Helping you determine what benefits may apply if you return to work on a limited or restricted basis.
- Protecting your rights and presenting your case at your workers’ compensation hearing after receiving a return-to-work notice.
During every single stage of a workers’ compensation claim, you have rights that must be protected. As Pennsylvania work injury lawyers, we at Handler, Henning & Rosenberg LLC have the qualifications and experience to help. Our firm has represented workers throughout the commonwealth for the past 100 years, and we will continue to fight for the injured and wronged as long as they need our help.
Our team includes Attorney J. Jeffrey Watson, who has earned the designation of Specialist in the practice of workers’ compensation law by the Pennsylvania Bar Association’s Workers’ Compensation Law Section. From construction accidents, refinery accidents, and healthcare worker injuries to occupational diseases and manufacturing accidents, we are uniquely qualified to protect employees’ interests.
To learn more, call (888) 498-3023 or contact us online.