Temporary Return to Work
Sometimes after a work injury, there can be uncertainty or disagreements about when an injured employee can go back to work. For example, you might go see a doctor chosen by your employer in order to receive an independent medical examination (IME), and that IME doctor may express the opinion that you should go back to work. Or, you might be feeling better sooner than expected and ask for clearance to go back to work. Regardless of the reason, going back to work will impact your ability to receive workers' compensation benefits. If you are concerned about a temporary return to work after sustaining a job-related injury, the knowledgeable Chicago workers' compensation attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Eagle, Johnson & Bareck can assess your situation and help you determine the best course of action.Temporary Return to Work
Independent medical exams are not necessarily truly independent. You should be aware that the doctor is paid for and chosen by the workers' compensation carrier, and sometimes this arguably influences the doctor to send you back to work earlier than you believe you should be sent. Under workers’ compensation law, your employer can choose to rely on the IME findings. This means that if you choose to simply not go back to work after an IME finds that you're able to do so, the employer is within its rights to stop your temporary total disability benefits.
If a doctor concludes that you are ready, you can try to go back to work to see whether you can do your job. But if you return to work as ordered and you can't do your job, whether with or without restrictions, you should notify your supervisor that your injury keeps you from being able to work. You should also call or make an appointment with the doctor who is treating you and let him or her know that you're unable to work and why. Temporary total benefits should commence again.
If your employer can't give you work that meets doctor-ordered restrictions, you can still get temporary total disability benefits. For example, if you work in a warehouse and aren't supposed to lift more than 5 pounds due to a spinal cord injury, but your employer needs you to lift at least 20, you can still get temporary total disability benefits, which are 2/3 of your average weekly wage. However, often doctors do lift restrictions eventually because an injured worker has healed enough to work without restrictions.Fighting an Order to Return to Work
In other situations, you may not want to go back to work, and you genuinely may not believe you're able to go to work. Your recourse is to go to trial with the workers' compensation insurer under Section 19(b) of the Workers' Compensation Act, and a lawyer can help you with this process. Once you file under this provision, it takes around 60 days to go to trial. An arbitrator can determine on an expedited basis whether you should go back to work. You and the other party have the opportunity to appeal. However, this proceeding won't decide the value of any permanent disability benefits. And more importantly for some workers, during this time you will not only be out of work, but also not getting your temporary total disability benefits. This option tends to favor workers who can afford to go without benefits at least for a few months.
In some cases, there's no job to go back to, even though you believe you're ready to return to work. And once your doctor releases you to work, you will no longer be able to get temporary total disability benefits.
While on a return to work, you should honor whatever restrictions your doctor has put in place for that return. It is unlawful for your employer to retaliate against you for following your doctor's orders.Work Injury Attorneys Representing Employees in Chicago
If you have been injured on the job and are concerned about a temporary return to work in Chicago, an experienced workers' compensation lawyer at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Eagle, Johnson & Bareck can help you navigate this process. We represent injured workers in areas including Quincy, Champaign, Aurora, Rockford, and Springfield, as well as Cook, Sangamon, Adams, Champaign, Winnebago, and Kane Counties. Please call us at 312-263-6330 or toll-free at 800-444-1525 for a free consultation.