Workers’ compensation is an incredibly important protection for workers across the country, ensuring they can continue to pay their bills while recovering from work-related injuries or suffering from long-term disabilities.
However, navigating workers’ compensation claims can be difficult, and there’s often a lot at stake. The first challenge is recovering workers’ comp benefits, which is not always a smooth process. However, in many cases, the most difficult part is knowing how and when to return to work to ensure you don’t lose out on benefits that you and your family need.
Here, we are going to help answer some questions about returning to work after a work injury, which we hope will help you better understand your situation. That said, the specifics of your situation could greatly influence what you should do next, which is why we highly recommend you speak with a workers’ compensation attorney before making any big decisions.
In most cases, injured workers who receive workers’ compensation benefits will go back to work, at which point their temporary total disability (TTD) benefits will cease. This is how the system is designed to work unless the worker suffers from a permanent disability because of their work-related injury.
The real question is if and when you should return to work. This decision should ultimately come down to the medical advice from your doctor, although employers sometimes pressure employees to get back to work sooner than they should. After all, workers’ compensation can be costly for your employer’s insurance company, meaning their goal is to get workers back on the job as quickly as possible to avoid increased insurance rates.
Also, since workers’ compensation benefits do not cover your full lost income, you may also feel the need to begin working again sooner than you should.
However, if you decide to go back to work too soon, it could harm your ability to receive workers’ comp benefits if you are reinjured. In the worst case, you may even be fired because of your inability to complete your job, leaving you with no income at all and no workers’ compensation benefits.
While you should never return to work if it could be detrimental to your health and well-being, you may be able to return to light-duty work before you are fully healed. In these situations, if you are making less than you normally would have, you can still receive temporary partial disability benefits.
The goal, ultimately, is to reach what is called maximum medical improvement (MMI), which is determined by your doctor. This is the point at which they consider you as healed as you can be and no further treatment is required.
However, this doesn’t necessarily mean you are fully healed. You could have a permanent partial disability or impairment, meaning you may never be fully healed from your injuries nor able to complete your work-related tasks as you once did.
In these cases, you may be able to secure long-term disability payments to compensate for the lost income you would have received if not for your work injury.
Employers are held to strict rules around work injuries, including not being allowed to force an injured worker to continue working.
Unfortunately, workers often feel at the mercy of their employers, who may even discourage workers from reporting their injuries.
If you feel that you are not being treated fairly and it is risking your well-being, you should reach out to a workers’ compensation attorney as quickly as possible to discuss your rights and the best way to handle your situation.
The duration of workers’ compensation benefits depends on several factors, including the severity of your injuries and your location. At the Karl Truman Law Office, we represent injured workers in both Kentucky and Indiana, and the laws are different between the two states.
For example, in Kentucky, the length of time you can receive permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits depends on your permanent impairment rating. This rating, expressed as a percentage, represents the severity of a disability and is designated by your doctor:
In Indiana, on the other hand, permanent partial impairment benefits are calculated as a lump sum based on the type and severity of your impairment.
The same is true of temporary and permanent total disability benefits: it ultimately depends on your unique situation, the extent of your injuries, and where you are located.
If your employer or their insurance company doesn’t agree with your doctor’s assessment of your injuries, you have the right to appeal their decision. Unfortunately, this will likely complicate matters even further, and you should consider speaking with a workers’ comp attorney to help you navigate the process.
At the Karl Truman Law Office, we are fierce advocates for injured workers, and we are here to help you recover the workers’ comp benefits you need and deserve after a workplace injury.
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To speak with our attorneys over a free, no-obligation consultation, please call our office in Louisville, Kentucky, at (502) 222-2222 or in Jeffersonville, Indiana, at (812) 282-8500.