You should return to work only when your injuries are healed. However, it is not as simple. Sometimes, a worker injured at work sustains temporary partial disability. In such injuries, the worker is capable of returning to work but not capable of working to its full potential.
Should the worker return to work in such circumstances? Would the worker’s compensation will continue after joining the work? Or should the injured worker return to work after their worker’s compensation ends? Many questions follow through. Let’s see what Fort Lauderdale workers’ compensation lawyers say.
When does workers’ comp end in Fort Lauderdale?
It depends on the worker’s injuries and how long a workers’ comp continues. You can receive worker’s compensation for even a lifetime if your injury is classified as a permanent disability.
You can receive it for a few weeks until your injuries are healed. If you have reached maximum medical improvement and your doctor says your injuries are fully healed, your worker’s compensation will stop.
For instance, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, you can collect temporary partial disability benefits for 104 weeks. If you are still injured, your disability will be counted as temporary total disability, and you will be entitled to receive benefits accordingly.
On the contrary, if you reach MMI within 104 weeks, your workers’ comp will stop. If you are assigned Impairment Ratings after MMI, you may be eligible for impairment income benefits.
MMI or maximum medical impairment (MMI) is a situation diagnosed by your doctor that states the injured are not likely to heal more than the current state.
When should I return to work after workplace injuries in Fort Lauderdale?
So, when should you return to work? Should you return to work before workers’ comp ends to not prevent the loss of wages? Should you return to work after worker’s compensation ends?
The situation you are most likely to face is your employer/insurance company will force you to return to work as soon as possible. This is because, once you return to work, you will be deemed fit, and your worker’s compensation will stop.
This will lessen the amount they have to pay as worker’s compensation. However, you should not return to work if you do not feel fit.
The final decision of when you should return to work should depend on your physical condition and the doctor’s opinion. You should not listen to the employer or the insurance company.
However, there’s another trouble. Sometimes the doctor can provide a biased decision as they are paneled by the employer and associated with the insurance company.
In such a situation, you can take a second opinion from the doctor of your choice. You can always hire a worker’s compensation attorney if the evaluation does not match. Such an attorney will help you fight for your legal rights.
Also, as per the worker’s compensation laws in Florida, the injured worker has the right to request to change the doctor one time and is termed a ‘one-time change of doctor’ as per 440.13(2)(f), F.S. As per this law, the employee has the right to change the doctor one time during the course of their claim.
However, the new doctor would also be picked by your insurance company only. A worker’s compensation attorney will also suggest other options like Independent Medical Evaluation (IME). In such a case, the injured worker has a right to seek another evaluation from their doctor’s choice with prior permission from the insurance carrier.
Should you return to work on light duty?
Light duty refers to returning to work but performing duties that don’t require much physical and mental pressure.
You may lose a part of your earnings for performing light duties if you have reached MMI.
If you haven’t reached MMI and are still allowed to turn to work for light duty, you are entitled to receive temporary partial disability benefits. Provided you are losing more than 20% of your average weekly wage. Per the owners’ compensation laws, the injured worker is entitled to receive 80% of her lost wages.
So, for instance, if your AWW is $100, if you are receiving $80, i.e., 80% of AWW, or more on light duty, you will not be eligible for temporary partial disability benefits.
On the contrary, if you are receiving less than $80 per week, let’s say, $70, you will be entitled to receive TPD as you are losing $10 per week due to performing light work. You can seek compensation from the insurance company in that case.
If your insurance company denies the same, you can contact a workers’ comp attorney who will fight for your rights on your behalf.
It should also be noted that if the employer doesn’t assign you any light-duty/restricted duty due to lack of it, the employer may send you back home. Your benefit payment may be interrupted in such cases.
In such circumstances also, you can seek the help of a workers’ comp attorney to seek the right advice.
In short, when your employer asks you to return to work, seek advice from your doctor. If he permits your injuries to be healed, you must return to work.
If you think your injuries aren’t healed despite your doctor’s advice, you can seek a second opinion (by seeking prior permission from your employer/insurance company).
Not returning to work when your employer asks you to will make you lose your lost wages benefits as per the law. For best practices, you should contact a worker’s compensation attorney as soon as possible. They will provide the right path for your situation.
Remember that as per the law in Florida, the employer can also fire you as worker’s compensation does not provide job security. It only protects the injured workers when the employer threatens to fire them when seeking the worker’s compensation claim.
In the State of Florida, the employer is also free to re-assign an injured worker, i.e., re-assign a different line of duty, reduce the work hours, reduce the hourly rate or terminate the services of an employee who is physically unable to perform their duty.
In case of any confusion, contact the best injury attorney in Fort Lauderdale, FL, to get more information on returning to work after injuries.