It is true that no one can be forced to work. The insurance company cannot force an injured worker go back to work. The answer to our question is not that simple. It is extremely risky for an injured worker to refuse to return to work with her or his time-of-injury employer. In some cases, an injured worker may even have a legal obligation to look for a new job in the labor market.
Most work injuries are minor. Most injured workers get the medical treatment they need, get better, and go back to work. Most injured workers miss a short time from work, receive the compensation benefits they deserve, and go back to their time-of-injury jobs. Their work injuries are quickly behind them and they would never need a lawyer.
Other workers suffer serious and disabling work injuries. They may be off work for months, or even years. Problems can arise for injured workers who suffer serious, long-lasting injuries. Without legal advice, injured workers may make bad choices and lose their compensation benefits entirely. Without legal advice, seriously injured workers may also receive less compensation that they deserve.
An injured worker may be examined by an insurance company doctor who clears the injured worker for full duty work, with no restrictions. The employer may order the injured worker to return to full duty work. Or, the employer may offer modified duty work which the insurance doctor has approved. The injured worker’s doctor may believe that the injured worker is not able to work at all, or requires greater job modifications than the insurance doctor claims.
What should the injured worker do in these situations? There is no one-size-fits-all answer to this question. The injured worker should immediately consult both a skilled workers’ compensation lawyer and her or his doctor. Working together, the doctor and lawyer can help the injured worker to make the best choice.
In some cases, the time-of-injury employer does not have a job for the injured worker to go back to. The insurance company may receive medical information that the injured worker is able to perform some level of work, although not necessarily full duty unrestricted work. The insurance company may send the injured worker a “Notice of Ability to Return to Work.” The injured worker who receives a Notice of Ability to Return to Work has a legal obligation to look for work within his or her restrictions. The injured worker should promptly consult an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer and also discuss with her or his doctor any disagreements over the injured worker’s abilities.
Do not ignore any letters or forms from the employer or the workers’ compensation insurance company. A skilled workers’ compensation lawyer can explain the meaning and significance of such papers. The lawyer can protect the injured worker’s rights by taking action where necessary.
If you have been injured at work, we can help with a free consultation regarding your rights and options.