In short, you can get a settlement from workers’ compensation if you go back to work. However, the amount you receive might be less than the sum you would have received if you could not go back to work.
Can You Return to Work?
According to the California Department of Workers’ Compensation (DWC), maximal medical improvement occurs when your stabilized condition is predicted to remain the same for the next year, regardless of medical treatment. At that point, a physician can determine whether you have a permanent disability and, if so, how severe it is.
If a workplace injury left you temporarily disabled, you might be able to go back to work once your doctor determines that you have recovered enough to perform your job safely. You might not be able to return to work under the same conditions, however. You might only be able to perform light work or find you can only work limited hours.
If your old job was physically demanding or required significant coordination and dexterity, it might be impossible for you to do it safely and efficiently, with or without reasonable accommodation.
Under those circumstances, your employer might offer you a different position. It might be related to your old job and could allow you to use some of the same skills that you used in your previous role in a different way. If that is not possible, the company might offer you an unrelated position, perhaps in a different department. The new job could have a lower salary than your old position did.
Types of Settlement You Can Get
The value of your workers’ compensation claim will depend on numerous factors, including the extent of your disability and how it impacts your ability to work. If you are still disabled but can return to work, you might be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits based on the severity of your disability. If you go back to work, you might still be able to receive benefits that will cover costs for medical treatment and compensate you for a reduction in income if you have to take a different position that pays less than your old one.
If you opt for a compromise and release settlement, your workers’ compensation claim will be settled once and for all with a lump sum. You will not be eligible to seek more money later, even if you require further medical care or discover that the amount you received is not enough to cover the treatment you need. This type of settlement also prohibits you from returning to work for the same employer.
If you choose a stipulated findings and award settlement, you and the workers’ compensation insurance company will agree on the extent of your disability. The insurance company will also cover the care you might need in the future. If your condition worsens after you reach an agreement, you can reopen the case within five years.
Why Returning to Work Too Soon Could Be a Mistake
You might be frustrated spending most of your time at home and could be eager to return to work. You might also be motivated by financial concerns, especially if your family is struggling to get by with a sudden reduction in income.
Although you might want to get back to work, it is important to follow the advice of your doctor. If you go back to work too soon, it might be difficult or impossible for you to obtain the amount of workers’ compensation that you deserve. The insurance company could argue that you were not seriously injured and that you are, therefore, not entitled to a significant settlement.
If you rush to go back to work, you could discover within days, weeks, or months that you are not as healthy and strong as you thought you were. You might struggle to perform your duties or be unable to work a full shift.
Even if your doctor has deemed you ready and able to return to work, that does not necessarily mean that you will be able to do all the things you used to do. The physician might impose restrictions that are intended to help you perform your duties and prevent you from aggravating your injury. For example, you might have to use ergonomic equipment, wear a back or knee brace, restrict your hours, or take breaks at regular intervals. It is important to follow those guidelines. Failing to do so could cause complications when you seek a workers’ compensation settlement.
Get Professional Advice
A workers’ compensation lawyer can explain these issues and advise you on how to proceed. Pintas & Mullins Law Firm has helped people who were hurt on the job obtain a fair amount of compensation for their injuries. Call (800) 529-9122 to discuss your case with a member of our staff.