One of the frustrating things about workers’ compensation cases is that the employer’s interests are often at odds with the injured employee’s interests. For example, your employer would like you to get back to work as soon as possible. If you’re injured, it’s in your best interest to wait until you are healed and physically ready to handle the demands of your job. Otherwise, you could get hurt again or never make a full recovery.
Some employers have been known to pressure workers into coming back to work before they are ready. If your employer is pushing you to return to work, or threatening to fire you if you can’t come back right away, it’s a red flag and you should proceed with caution. This is especially true if they pressure you to get a release from your doctor so that you can return to work. Even if they promise that you won’t have to do your full duties, don’t do it.
As much as you might want to return to work and normal life, getting a release to return to work before you are physically able to do so can damage your workers’ compensation claim. In the worst cases, the worker returns to work only to get fired. At this point, they are no longer getting temporary total disability benefits (payment for lost wages while they recover), but they don’t have a paycheck at all and aren’t in great physical condition when it comes to getting another job.
Getting a full release from your doctor, or having your doctor say that you have reached maximum medical improvement, is great if it’s true. If not, it hurts your ability to get further medical treatment covered by workers’ compensation. Further, it can decrease the value of your case. At the end of a claim, many workers will get a settlement if their injury is permanent. But if your doctor has signed off that you are all better, the employer and their insurance company are going to argue that there isn’t any permanent disability.
The bottom line is that a release to full duty work should not happen until you are actually ready or full duty work. Being ready means that you have exhausted your treatment and either you are completely healed or you are as good as you are going to get. If you are unsure of whether it’s time for full duty work, talk to an Illinois workers’ compensation attorney about the implications and the other options you might have.