If you’ve been injured on the job, the severity of your injury has a significant impact on how your claim is handled by your employer’s workers compensation insurance company (workers compensation insurance company, will hereafter be stated as, “carrier”). The opinions provided by physicians you’re authorized to treat with will determine what rights and obligations exist with respect to all parties involved. Sustaining either a work related injury, or work related condition, results in your entitlement to work comp benefits.
One class of work comp benefits is medical care. From your very first medical appointment, a determination is made by that physician as to what your work status is. The potential for an employer to engage in conduct intended to cause you to decide to quit occurs most often when an opinion concerning your work status is a return to work with restrictions. In Florida, there are only three classifications for your work status:
- A “no work,” restriction. Meaning you are not to work in any capacity.
- A “return / release to work with restrictions.” Listing all the physical restrictions a physician may determine are necessary is not possible. Each person is different. Each person’s injury and their reaction to the treatment provided is different. Each physician may form different opinions. Furthermore, there is no limit to the range of restrictions a physician could determine necessary. Regardless, a release in which you are able to return to work with specific physical restrictions essentially means that if your employer can accommodate your physical restrictions, then you are capable of returning to work in that accommodating position. If you are no longer working with the same employer at the time you receive a release to return to work with restrictions, there are certain actions you need to take in order to maintain your eligibility for lost wages.
- A return to work with no restrictions. As states, this means that the work comp authorized treating physician formed the opinion that no physical restrictions are necessary. You can return to work in a full duty capacity.
If you are released to return to work with restrictions, event that occurs thereafter generally fall into one of two scenarios. In the first scenario, your return to work is smooth and uneventful. In the second, your return to work is so entirely overflowing with issues that a full descriptive list could become a few hundred page novel. Handling of workers compensation claims involves a focus on the carrier and their provision of work comp benefits. In the event that a release to return to work with restrictions presents problems, our focus expands to include both the carrier’s provision of work comp benefits and your employer’s conduct.
Conduct intended to influence your decision in favor of quitting your job occurs most often when your authorized physician released you to return work with restrictions. A return to work with restrictions can be the most problematic and difficult to deal with. You may wonder why an employer would want you to quit after being injured on the job. An employer’s interest in having you quit boils down to money. If you quit your job, there is a strong argument that you will lose your eligibility for workers compensation lost wage payments; also called “indemnity benefits.” Quitting without sufficient justification is considered to be a voluntary limitation of income. Given our experience in handling workers compensation claims, we can benefit you in the event of a return to work with restrictions by either informing you of what to expect before it occurs, or in telling you how to best handle any given situation. Sometimes, the best option is to discuss a potential settlement of your workers compensation claim. You can contact our office for a free consultation.
Fortunately, not everyone experiences a difficult return to work. Many employers will make a sincere attempt to provide an accommodating position to an employee returning to work. An “accommodating position,” is one that complies with your physical restrictions by not requiring you to engage in physical activity in excess of the restrictions put in place by your authorized physician. Returning to work often results in greater financial stability. Greater financial stability results from the fact that you are likely to earn more income returning to an accommodating position than you would receive every two weeks from the work comp carrier. In addition, financial stability comes about because your paychecks are more likely to arrive on a regular basis and at a specific time. When your wage loss payments are the obligation of the carrier, there is the tendency for your lost wage payments to arrive late, or not at all. Work comp carriers can, and do, stop lost wage benefits without warning or notice. Sometimes the cessation of lost wage payments is legitimate. Other times, the carrier’s failure to send your lost wage payments occurs for reasons that are entirely inconsistent with Florida’s workers compensation laws governing the payment of wage loss benefits.
Alternatively, you can return to what feels like a hostile work environment. Your motivation, morale, and general comfort level decrease. Your employer could begin a course of action intended to establish grounds to terminate you for cause. In reality, their actions are nothing more than a scheme of unscrupulous deceptive tactics. The benefit to your employer in terminating you for cause, or in successfully influencing you to quit, is that you will lose eligibility for lost wage payments from work comp and not be eligible for unemployment benefits. The Dolman Law Group cannot overstate the importance of discussing what your intentions are with an experienced workers compensation attorney before you take action. If you’re unsure about how to proceed or have questions about what you should do, or not do; say or not say, please contact our office for a free consultation. If your return to work has been mishandled or if you simply have no interest in returning to work at the place of employment where your accident occurred, the decision to change jobs is one we discuss with our clients. There are recommended ways in which to follow through with the decision to change jobs. Because negative repercussions can occur from going about changing jobs the wrong way, it is important to receive advice on how to best go about such action. We provide free consultations wherein you can ask any questions you have. Contact us at (727) 853-6275 or visit www.dolmanlaw.com.
Dolman Law Group
5435 Main Street
New Port Richey, FL 34652