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After a serious work-related injury, there are many doctor appointments and discomfort and pain. The daily activities of life, like walking up steps and running errands, can also be quite challenging for the injured worker.
Knowing when the right time to return to work can be unclear. While some employees try to extend their time off, others look forward to heading back. Pressure from employers to return to work can complicate matters, and going back to work too soon could make the injuries worse.
Workers’ Compensation covers medical expenses and time lost from work due to injuries, but it is normally less than a full-time salary. The claim should be enough to cover surgery, doctor appointments, medications, physical therapy, and assistive devices, like walkers. This insurance also provides for a portion of the injured employee’s wages until they are able to go back to work.
There are four categories for Workers’ Compensation:
An injured employee will likely receive a note about their work status each time they visit their physician for follow-up appointments. At some point, the doctor may determine that the employee is ready to return to work with or without limitations.
Some insurance plans require that the employee reaches a maximum medical improvement (MMI) before being cleared for work while others may not. Medical evaluations can lead to a Workers’ Compensation disability rating. After an injured worker is recovered and cleared by their physician, they may return back to their job and salary with possible restrictions.
It is important to listen to a doctor’s recommendations about a return-to-work-date, but if the employee disagrees, they can communicate this to their provider. There could be new symptoms or other reasons why the worker feels that they are not ready. The employee may also be getting pressured by their company, but this should not outweigh health concerns.
Going back to work can also impact or end the Workers’ Compensation benefits when an employee still needs them. This is one reason why some Workers’ Compensation providers pressure employees to return to work too soon. In order to make a full recovery, the employee needs to follow their treatment plan and should never return to work if is not approved by a physician.
Anything unusual should be discussed with the medical provider. In many cases, employees are able to get back to work, but they may be in a different capacity that is less strenuous, either temporarily or permanently. Keeping in touch with the employer as the process unfolds is a good way to plan for a smooth transition.
An employer is required by law to hold the job open until the injured worker can return unless a medical report indicates that an employee cannot perform their previous job duties. A company can help out by creating a return-to-work plan that takes the employee’s current disability into consideration.
After going back to work, the employee should keep their medical restrictions in mind. Pushing too hard too soon could lead to medical complications and further injuries. To help with this, the physician should be involved with creating and monitoring the return-to-work plan.
There is also a possibility that other company employees have experienced job-related injuries, so their experiences could be used as guidelines. If the injured employee cannot perform their job in the same way as they did pre-injury, it may be possible to change the role to better accommodate them.
If an employee returns to their job at the appropriate time, working can actually help with the healing process. Rest is important, but being sedentary for too long can lead to other problems, like heart disease. Going to work and having some physical activity can aid in recovery as it can promote strength and mobility. Combining this with physical therapy and light exercise can be a good plan. Staying home too long can also lead to overeating, alcohol and drug abuse, anxiety, and even depression.
Work is important, and going back to the job can be good for one’s confidence. There is also the benefit of being around more people, and trusted colleagues can provide a good social support network. Even if the injured employee cannot be physically present at the place of employment, they may be able to join in remotely during their recovery.
Keeping in touch with co-workers during the recovery process can also be helpful, and there are also companies that provide workplace rehabilitation services. These outside contractors provide allied health professionals that liaise with employees, employers, and insurance companies. Additionally, a lawyer can help with the process by ensuring that their client receives the proper amount of compensation until they are fully capable of returning to work.
If you have a work injury and you are encountering problems with going back to your job, one of our skilled Wilmington workers’ compensation lawyers at Rhoades & Morrow can offer assistance. For a free consultation, call us at 302-427-9500 or complete our online form. Located in Wilmington, Bear, and Milford, Delaware, we serve clients throughout Middletown, Dover, Milford, Hillsborough, Lewes, Rehoboth, Elsmere, and Seaford.