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Should I return to work light duty- Workers Compensation

Should I return to work light duty? – Maryland workman’s compensation

THIS WEBSITE IS THE PRODUCT OF A WORKERS COMPENSATION ATTORNEY AND IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH  ANY WORKERS COMPENSATION INSURER.  FURTHER IT IS NOT AFFILIATED WITH THE STATE OF MARYLAND NOR ANY GOVERNMENT ENTITY WITHIN THE STATE OF MARYLAND.  Information contained herein is provided for informational purposes and expresses opinions and information best known at the time it was written.  This information and does not create an attorney to client representation.

The decision whether or not an injured Maryland Employee returns to work should not be taken lightly.

There are risks and benefits for injured Maryland workers when they make the decision to return to work on a light duty basis.  A great majority of workers compensation attorney’s and workers compensation Commissioners are in agreement that it is usually best to attempt to return to work if the treating physician, or other physicians are indicating the injured employee is physically able to do so.  While attempting to return to light duty is ordinarily in the best interest of the worker and society there are some factors to take into consideration and concerns that should be addressed.

For a free consultation call Baltimore workers compensation attorney and personal injury attorney Andrew M. Rodabaugh now at  Call Us, Click to email  or just fill out the form at the bottom of the page and Mr. Rodabaugh will contact you!

 

return to work workers compensation

What happens when the injured employee returns to work on light duty making less than they were prior to the accident?

On occasion an injured worker is asked to return to work and perform a different job altogether.  This is the case when the employer decides that they can accommodate the employee, but also could use that employee in different capacity.  Sometimes the injured worker is paid their normal wages.  For others  this often means they will be paid less than they were making in their pre-injury job, but also creates a financial burden.  It would not make sense to return to work if they were to paid at a rate less then the workers compensation benefit rate.

If a return to work means lower wages, the injured worker is still in treatment, and has not yet met maximum medical improvement the injured worker would be entitled to payment from the workers comp insurer in addition to the light duty wages the employer is paying.  These payments are called temporary partial disability (TPD).  The amount paid to the employee is 50% of the difference between the pre-accident wages and light duty wages.  For example: an injured employee making $1,000 a week before the injury later returns to work light duty making $600 a week.  In addition to the $600 the employer is paying the employee, workers comp would have to pay TPD in the amount of $200.  ($1,000-$600= $400.  $400/2= $200.)

If however, the employee is found to be at Maximum Medical Improvement the scenario differs.  The injured worker would not be entitled to TPD payments.  The injured worker may qualify for an increased award of compensation based on an “industrial loss.”  In the same scenario noted above a qualified workers compensation attorney would argue that the loss of earning potential entitles the employee to a larger permanency award.  It would be argued to the Workers Compensation Commission that as a result of the injuries sustained the worker is no longer able to earn the same money he or she was once able to earn.  The Commission would then have the discretion to increase the permanency award to an amount above and beyond what would ordinarily be awarded.  For the injured worker this may mean the difference of thousands of dollars.

What should I consider when deciding to return to work light duty or fight workers comp for continued benefits?

Are light duty accommodations being offered?

Employees and Employers alike have decisions to make when dealing with a workers compensation case.  The employer must decide to offer a light duty position to injured workers, or not offer a position and leave it to the workman’s comp insurer to pay lost wages.  It is often in the employers interest to offer a light duty position to mitigate insurance premium increases, but also to prevent the loss of a valued employee, hiring costs, and training costs.  It is generally understood, and apparently medically supported, that the longer an employee stays out of work, the more reluctant they are to return.

If the employer does not provide light duty then the injured worker will be qualified for lost wage/Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits.  It is important to note that employers will often create a light duty position just to keep the employee working, and engaged with the business.

If the employer offers light duty but it is outside of the restrictions the doctor has provided then the injured worker has a difficult decision to make. See below What are some of the risks if I return to work light duty? ↓.

What are the doctors stating as light duty limitations?

When deciding whether an injured worker should return to work light duty the first consideration is whether any doctor is providing duty restrictions.    If all doctors are indicating the injured worker is capable of performing their job with no limitations then the decision to return to work is essentially already made.  Of course no worker will be forced to go to work, however the alternative will likely be termination and less compensation benefits.  If there are doctors holding the injured worker on light duty then the limitations prescribed should be accommodated by the employer, otherwise lost wages should be paid and the employee should remain in an off work status.

Does the injured worker have any interest in returning to the occupation in which they were hurt?

It is not ordinarily a good idea to resign from an occupation or refuse to return to work when the doctors indicate light duty is an option for a hurt employee.  If light duty is offered and the employee refuses to return to the job lost wage checks/temporary total disability payments will likely stop, but the employee may also be terminated which may interfere with their right to unemployment.

In some circumstances, those injured at work have already obtained new employment or for one reason or another will not under any circumstances return to their employer.  Resignations usually eliminate any chance of receiving vocational rehabilitation and can interfere substantially with lost wage requests in the future.

The injured employee must consider the wages they would receive if they return to work on restricted duty versus receiving continued temporary total disability benefits.

 

 What if I try to return to work light duty but am unable to do the tasks that are assigned to me?

Based on compliance of the restrictions, the injured worker who returns to work in good faith but is unable to perform the tasks assigned may qualify for vocational rehabilitation, modified work restrictions, or return to temporary total status which means they are unable to work in any capacity.

It is expected that both the employer and the injured worker show a certain amount of reasonableness otherwise difficult in the work transition, and the workers comp case will arise.  For instance, if the injured worker is not allowed to stay on their feet for longer than two hours a day, the employer should not be requiring the injured worker to be on their feet for two hours and forty five minutes.  That is a significant non-compliance in my opinion.  Alternatively, if the injured worker is asked to stand for five or ten minutes extra protest should not occur.

Another example of a show of reasonableness would be an injured worker with a lifting restriction of 5lbs willing to lift 6 or 7lbs occasionally.  The employer, should not have or attempt to have the injured worker lift more than 15lbs in my humble, legal opinion.

Showing the effort to return to work in any capacity can go a long way with the Workers Compensation Commission.  (The Commission can be considered the judges of workman’s comp cases).  If an injured worker shows an effort to return to the work force the Commission will likely provide some deference to the injured worker should they ultimately be unable to continue with the light duty position.  The injured worker may then qualify for vocational rehabilitation (job training and/or search assistance).  If the injured worker does not at least make the effort to return to work then vocational rehabilitation will not likely be an option.

Not only will the effort to return to work assist in obtaining vocational rehabilitation, but it will also assist in a claim for temporary total disability benefits should the injured worker ultimately not be able to perform the light duty offered.

What are some of the benefits to returning to work light duty?

Returning to work in a light duty capacity will show to employers and supervisors there is a willingness to work, and no intention of “gaming the system.”  This in turn should help create job security but also encourages a level of trust that the employee is in part dedicated to the employer.

For many, the lost wage/TTD payments are not substantial enough to live off of.  Being paid at 2/3 of the normal wages, the reduction is sometimes difficult to deal with.  A return to work may provide the same payments that the injured worker was receiving prior to the injury.

It is often stated that a return to work is beneficial to the employees psychological well being.  Having somewhere to go each day would certainly aide in feelings of self worth.  Also, being active rather than sedentary will presumably have some biological benefits.  From what I have seen in practice, it does not take long for the injured worker to become depressed or anxious when their only option is to remain sedentary at home.

A return to work may provide some assistance in the injured workers physical recovery.  Ultimately it would be a decision that should be made by a doctor, but in particular circumstances use of the injured body part may encourage recovery by the same means as physical therapy.

What are some of the risks if I return to work light duty?

Again, it is generally understood to be in the employees best interest to return to work if light duty is offered. 

  • However, Maryland laws provide some disincentive in certain circumstances.  For example, the injured worker is receiving $ 800 weekly in TTD benefits while held out of work completely.  Later the employer is able to accommodate light duty restrictions which would pay the injured worker $700 while working in a different position.  The workers comp insurer would only be liable to pay TPD at a rate of 50% of the difference between the pre and post injury wages. Pre injury rate was $1,200 a week.  Post injury wage is $700 a week. 1,200-700= $500.  $500/2= $250.  The injured worker will determine that they may return to work making $700 from employer plus $250 from workman’s comp equaling $950 weekly.  Or stay at home and do nothing and earn $800 a week in temporary total disability.
  • Injured workers should strive to get back to work as soon as possible in order to continue a positive relationship with employers, but also to show that there is no intention of abusing the workers compensation system.  Occasionally the possibility of someone abusing the workers comp system is the first thought that leads to continued and ongoing skepticism and negativity.  Sometimes avoiding this negativity is not possible, however an expedited return to work often avoids any negativity and bolsters the employer/employee relationship.
  • A return to work in a light duty capacity may mean making the decision to put an injured workers financial well being in front of their physical well being.  This decision should not be made lightly.
  • With any return to work there is the risk of re-injury.  This would ultimately mean a set back in progress to the injured worker but could also mean increased financial exposure to the employer and insurer.  The employee should closely monitor activities they perform and note when increased pain or symptoms occur.
  • Unfortunately there are occasions where the injured worker will return to work and be subject to ridicule and scrutiny.  In a majority of circumstances employees are welcomed back and appreciated however there are some difficult employers among us.
  • Along with the ridicule and scrutiny, there is on occasion an effort and fortuitous termination.  Employers may find reasons to write up employees, make it difficult for employees to satisfy their job requirements, and hold employees to a heightened level of expectation only with the goal of firing them.  Sham on these employers!
  • As discussed, there is a chance of lower wages should the employee return to the same employer.  While the employee may recoup the loss through an industrial loss argument at permanency, the initial reduction in wages can be financially devastating for some.

For a free consultation call Baltimore workers compensation attorney and personal injury attorney Andrew M. Rodabaugh now at  Call Us, Click to email  or just fill out the form at the bottom of the page and Mr. Rodabaugh will contact you!

 

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Returning to work after workers compensation case
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Returning to work after workers compensation case
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Injured workers should make the decision to return to work only after some informative thought. A workers compensation attorney should be consulted as soon as a offer to return as been extended
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Work Injury Maryland
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