When someone is out of work because of an injury or occupational illness, they usually want to get back to work as soon as possible. Although it is nice to collect workers’ compensation benefits when you are out, going back to work means getting a full paycheck again. For many people, returning to work also means getting back into their social circle and essentially resuming a normal life again.
You are probably not the only one who is anxious for you to get back to work, your employer probably is as well. Most employers want to get their injured employees back to work ASAP, and this is especially true in a tight labor market like the one we are in right now.
As much as you and your employer may want you to get back on the job, it may not be in your best interests to return to work quickly. When you have suffered a work-related injury, you need adequate time to recover and get back to full strength. If you try to come back too early and you are physically unable to handle your work, you could end up getting re-injured and making your condition worse. You could even end up with a permanent disability and the inability to return to your job at all.
This type of situation could also put your workers’ compensation benefits in jeopardy. Keep in mind that you have a duty to mitigate the effects of your injury by seeking appropriate medical care, following the advice of your doctor, and taking the prescribed amount of time necessary to make a full recovery or to reach maximum medical improvement (MMI). Coming back to work too soon and aggravating your condition would most likely be looked at very unfavorably by the workers’ comp insurer.
When Should I Come Back to Work after an Injury?
You should only come back to work when you are completely healed from your injury and your doctor has cleared you to return. When you are out of work and collecting workers’ compensation, your generally required to see your doctor at regular intervals. During each visit, your doctor will normally provide notations updating your work status. Eventually, you might be cleared to return to work either with or without restrictions.
With restrictions means you still have some physical limitations on which types of jobs you can perform. For example, the doctor may clear you for light duty (e.g., no heavy lifting) or seated work only. Without restrictions indicates that the doctor believes you are physically able to perform all the functions of your job.
It is important to note that once you have been cleared by the doctor to go back to work in some capacity, it is your responsibility to inform your employer right away, and you are supposed to be back on the job on the “return to work” date your doctor gives you. If you do not agree with your doctor’s evaluation and you do not think you can come back to work yet, you will need to appeal their directive.
Pay close attention to your doctor’s notations with each visit, because it has happened that someone is cleared to return to work on paper, but they are not told this verbally. Ask your doctor about this after each visit to ensure that everyone is on the same page.
What if My Employer is Threatening my Job if I Don’t Come Back?
If you are feeling any kind of pressure from your employer to come back to work before you are physically able, you should speak with an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer right away. You should never come back to work before a doctor has medically cleared you to do so, and you should never feel pressured to persuade a doctor to clear you before you are fully healed.
An employer is not allowed to fire an employee strictly for filing a workers’ comp claim or for not coming back to work before they have been medically cleared to do so. All that said, employers are also generally not required to hold employee’s job open indefinitely – unless there is a specific employment contract that states otherwise. Because there is a lot of gray area with these types of cases, you will need strong legal counsel by your side advocating forcefully or your rights and interests.
Contact Peake & Fowler for Assistance
If you need any type of help with a workplace injury and/or workers’ compensation claim in South Carolina, call the experienced attorneys at Peake & Fowler at 803-788-4370 or message us online to schedule a free consultation and case assessment.