When you are injured on the job, you have a right to workers' compensation benefits while you recover. But just when are you ready to return to work?
Sometimes, the workers' comp insurance company's doctor has a different opinion from your treating physician about when you can come back to your job. Knowing more about the process and what you will face can help ensure you are not being forced back into work before you are truly ready.
Employers or Their Workers' Comp Insurers May Challenge Your Right to Benefits
Workers' compensation benefits may continue as long as you are unable to work and earn money. Your employer or your employer's workers' compensation insurer have to pay you as long as you are incapacitated by your work-related injury or illness and no other work is available that you are capable of performing.
Employers and insurers are anxious to get you back to work as soon as possible. When they believe you are ready to work again, your employer may file a suspension/modification petition.
After a suspension or modification petition is filed, your case will be assigned to a workers' compensation judge. In order to contest the suspension or modification of your benefits, your workers' compensation attorney will then file an answer to the petition. Both sides will have the opportunity to present evidence to the workers' compensation judge in hearings.
Your employer cannot stop or reduce your workers' compensation checks unless the judge issues an order to that effect or you've retuned to work or reached a settlement. The first time the workers' compensation judge can issue an order stopping your checks is after the first hearing. No matter what happens to your wage replacement benefits, the workers' comp insurance carrier is responsible for continuing to send payment for all necessary medical care reasonable and necessary to treat your work-related injury.
If the judge is convinced that you can returned to the job you held when you were injured and your employer is ready to take you back at the same wage, your wage benefits will be suspended. Alternatively, if you cannot yet return to full duty, but a light duty job is available with your employer, your benefits will be suspended or if you return to work at a loss in wages, you will receive partial workers' compensation benefits.
If there is no work available with your time-of-injury employer, but the workers' compensation insurer still believes you are ready to return to work, job development or a labor market survey/earning power assessment may come into play in the hearings. Job development would involve assessing what kind of work you may be able to do considering your injury related limitations. A labor market survey or earning power assessment involves a "vocational counselor" doing a survey of open and available jobs in your geographic area. The vocational expert is to utilize information from the department of labor and industry temporary agencies and newspaper listings. The vocational expert is to find jobs that meet your educational, vocational and work injury restrictions. They can use their doctors' restrictions.
Get Help Keeping Your Benefits From a Pittsburgh Workers' Comp Lawyer
Employers and workers' compensation insurers have obvious financial incentives to get you back to work quickly after your on-the-job injury. But, it is your health that is risked by a premature return to work.
If your workers' compensation benefits are being threatened, you have options. Talk to a workers' compensation attorney today to learn more about legal strategies that could help you hang on to the benefits you need.