Should I Be in a Hurry to Return to Work after an Injury?
After someone is injured in a workplace accident, employers and their insurers are usually eager for them to get back to work. The sooner an injured employee returns to work, the sooner they can stop paying workers’ compensation benefits. The employee may also be anxious to start working again so they can get a full paycheck and get back to a regular routine.
While it is understandable for a worker to want to get back on the job, it is important to do so with an abundance of caution. Coming back to work too soon is definitely not in the employee’s best interests. They need an adequate amount of time to recover from their injury, and if it is not fully healed, there is a chance that the injury will be aggravated, and their condition will become worse. In some extreme cases, they could even end up with a permanent injury that prevents them from going back to their job at all.
If something like this were to happen, it would not only be bad for your physical health, it could jeopardize your workers’ compensation benefits as well. When you go on workers’ comp, you have a duty to mitigate the effects of your injury. This is done by receiving necessary medical care, doing what your doctor tells you to do, and taking the time that is needed to get fully recovered or if applicable, reach maximum medical improvement.
Your boss might be putting subtle pressure on you to come back to work. You might be hearing comments like, “we really need you back” or “I sure hope the doctor gives you approval to come back to work soon.” Keep in mind, however, that you are the one who loses by going back to work before you are physically able to do so. If you get hurt again, you are the one who will pay the price, not them.
When Should I Return to Work after an Injury?
The simple answer is, you should only return to work after you have been medically cleared to do so and your doctor issues a “return to work” date. While you are out of work, you should be making regular visits to your doctor to receive updates on your progress.
During each visit, the doctor typically provides notations about your work status. At some point, the doctor might clear you to come back to work either “with restrictions” or “without restrictions.” If you are cleared to come back with restrictions, this means that you still have some physical limitations, and you might only be able to do certain jobs.
For example, you might not be ready yet to do tasks that require heavy lifting or standing on your feet for too long. If your work clearance has restrictions, be sure to follow them as directed by your doctor so you don’t re-aggravate your injury.
When you go in for your doctor visits, be sure to ask them about your disability and work status each time. It could happen that a doctor clears you to go back to work on paper, but they fail to tell you this verbally. In such cases, you might not realize that you have a “return to work” date, and if you do not come back to work on that date, you could be in trouble with your employer.
Could I Lose My Job if I Don’t Come Back to Work When My Employer Wants?
This is a bit of a tricky question. An employer is not allowed to fire an employee in retaliation for filing a workers’ compensation claim, but in most cases, they are also not required to hold your job for you while you are out on workers’ comp leave. There are some exceptions to this, however, such as if you have an employment contract that guarantees your job, or if your injury qualifies you to take leave under the Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA). In any case, an employer will usually take an employee back after they are medically cleared as long as they have a position available for them.
Suffered a Workplace Injury in Alabama? Contact an Experienced Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Workers’ comp claims can be complicated and confusing, and there are a lot of difficult questions such as when you should return to work after an injury. For this reason, it is always best to work with a skilled and knowledgeable workers’ compensation attorney. For experienced legal help with workplace accidents and injuries in Alabama, contact M. Adam Jones and Associates or assistance. Call our office today at 334-581-9238 or message us online to schedule a free consultation with a member of our legal team.