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What You Need to Know About Returning to Work After an Injury

injured worker typingMany people who get hurt on the job are eventually able to return to work. However, things are often different than they were before the injury. They may have a permanent or temporary disability that limits what they can do or the number of hours they can work in a day. Sometimes injury victims must work for a different company or in an entirely new field because of the limitations created by their disability.

If you have a permanent disability from a work injury but are still able to work in some capacity, there are several things you should know about returning to the workforce. The Bakersfield workers’ compensation attorneys at Berry Smith & Bartell can explain the process of returning to work after an injury in a free consultation. We can also help you pursue workers' compensation benefits for medical bills and lost wages.  

When Can I Go Back to Work?

Many workers are anxious to return to work after an injury. However, returning to work too early can potentially endanger your health and safety. This is why certain individuals will work with you to help determine when it may be best to go back to work, such as:

  • Your treating doctor
  • The claims administrator for your workers' compensation claim
  • Managers who represent your employer

When making the determination on a return date, it is important that all parties understand the work you performed before the injury and your job duties. Your workers’ compensation attorney can help you communicate about the work you completed, the work that can potentially be assigned to you and your medical condition.

Work Restrictions

Your treating doctor may allow you to return to work, but under certain restrictions due to your medical issues. If this happens, your employer must abide by these restrictions with any work it assigns you. For example, your employer may need to modify certain tasks or provide equipment to help you complete tasks.

If there are no restrictions imposed by your treating doctor, your employer is usually required to give you the same job and pay rate as before. The offer from your employer will likely be to do your old job for a period of one year with the same wages and benefits.

However, if your doctor says you cannot return to your old job, your employer will be encouraged to offer you alternative work that meets work restrictions, lasts 12 months and pays you a minimum of 85 percent of the wages and benefits you received at the time of your injury.

How Long Will I Receive Disability Benefits?

The length of time that you will receive disability benefits depends on a number of factors, including the type of benefits you are receiving and your recovery. There are two general categories of workers’ compensation benefits:

Temporary Disability Benefits

Temporary disability benefits are available to injured workers who cannot perform their usual job while they recover from the accident. These benefits are available when your treating physician states you are unable to perform your job for more than three days or you are hospitalized overnight and your employer does not provide you with other work to replace your usual wages during your recovery time.

Temporary total disability payments are provided when you are unable to perform your work at all during your recovery time. Temporary partial disability payments are made if you are able to do some amount of work while recovering.

Temporary disability benefits are generally two-thirds of your regular wages before taxes, subject to a state minimum and maximum amount.

Temporary disability benefits begin within 14 days after your employer receives notice that you sustained a work-related injury and your treating physician states that your injury prevents you from performing your job. The payments end when any of the following occur:

  • Your treating physician says you can return to your usual work
  • Your condition is not improving or getting worse
  • You return to your regular work, alternate work or modified work at your regular wages
  • You received up to 104 weeks of temporary disability benefits within five years of your injury date

Permanent Disability Benefits

Permanent disability benefits are available when your work injury or illness results in a permanent disability that reduces your earning capacity after you have achieved maximum medical improvement (MMI). Your point of MMI is the point where your injury has stopped healing or improving.

These benefits will be paid within 14 days from when temporary disability benefits end and continue every two weeks until a reasonable estimate of your disability has been paid out. The amount of benefits you receive depends on these factors:

  • Your disability rating
  • Injury date
  • Wages earned before the injury

What If I Cannot Do the Job I Used to Do?

If your injury prevents you from returning to the job you had before the accident, California allows you to seek supplemental job displacement benefits. These benefits pay for educational retraining, skill enhancement or both at certain schools. Beneficiaries can use the benefit to pay for tuition, fees, tools, books and other expenses for retraining and to enhance skills, licensing or professional certification fees, and examination preparation course fees.

A portion of the benefits can be used for the following:

  • Services from a licensed placement agency or vocational counselor
  • Resume preparation
  • Purchase of a computer
  • Miscellaneous expenses

An employee is eligible for this benefit if the injury causes permanent partial disability and his or her employer does not offer regular, modified or alternative work within two months after the claims administrator receives the physician’s return to work report.

Who Can I Contact for More Information about Returning to Work After an Injury?

If you suffered an injury at work and would like more information about the benefits you may be entitled when returning to work, the workers’ compensation attorneys at Berry Smith & Bartell are ready to help. Our experienced attorneys are knowledgeable about all aspects of California workers’ compensation laws and have helped numerous accident victims recover the compensation they were entitled.

We charge no upfront fees and can advise you of your rights under California law. We also work on a contingency fee basis, so you are not charged any legal fees unless we recover benefits on your behalf.

For a free case evaluation with Berry, Smith & Bartell, a Professional Law Corporation call 1-800-848-6288 today!

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