Insurance carriers will put pressure on doctors in a workers’ compensation claim to send injured workers back to work. The reason for this is simple – money. If the injured worker is sent back on full or light duty, the insurance carrier doesn’t have to pay temporary disability benefits. The carrier wants to push the cost back on the employer. The first thing to remember is that if you’re hurt on the job in New Jersey, and the doctor sends you back to work, you must return to work or you can be fired. However, if the doctor places you on light duty restrictions, such as no lifting over 5lbs, no standing or no use of the hands, chances are that your employer might not actually have that work. If your employer doesn’t have real light duty work, it’s just like the doctor has taken you out of work completely and your temporary benefits will continue.
When you’re talking with your doctor about returning to work, make sure that the doctor is as specific as possible regarding any restrictions. You don’t want to go back to work with a note that simply says “light duty” – you want a list of exactly what you can and can’t do. Remind your doctor what your job duties are; don’t assume the doctor has your job description memorized. You can refuse work that doesn’t meet the restrictions set by your authorized doctor. Employers will push the restrictions to the limit, so it’s a good idea to have a very specific list. Restrictions should include specifics, such as how long you can sit or stand in a given day, specific weights for lifting, whether you should avoid use of one or both hands/arms, and whether you should avoid bending, reaching, climbing. Return to work issues are very common in a workers’ compensation claim and I discuss how to approach these with clients on a regular basis. If you are having return to work issues, you should call for a free consultation.