One of the most common Illinois workers’ compensation calls I get is when a worker gets injured, seeks medical care, treats with the doctor for a while and then gets discharged to return to work on a full duty basis. Many of those callers tell me that they don’t believe that they can do the job or that if they go back to work they will re-injure themselves. A lot of them work in construction or other heavy labor jobs so their concerns are legitimate.
The problem for them is that you can’t take yourself off work and expect to get paid work comp benefits or even keep your job if you don’t show up to work. So the question that really matters is, what are your supposed to do in this situation?
First thing I ask is who is your doctor. I’m stunned by the number of people who get sent to a company doctor and only treat with that doctor. You have a choice to see a physician of your own choosing at their expense and you should definitely do this. The “company doctor” places have an incentive to say that you are fine. They care about the employer who is paying the bill so in my experience, in most situations they’ll say you are fine. They make money by not treating you because that keeps more patients coming through the door.
If your doctor says you can’t work and theirs says you can, that’s why you have a lawyer. In most situations a Judge will find a regular treating physician to be more credible than one hand picked by the company.
If your doctor says you can return to work and you aren’t comfortable doing so, my advice is usually to tell you to try and see what happens. Just be careful. In other words, don’t tough it out for three months if you notice in the first week that you have shooting pain from your back going down your leg. Give it a credible, honest effort and if problems develop you can then go back to the doctor (preferably yours) and tell them what happened when you tried to return to work.
Beware that it’s possible that you will be under surveillance when you return to work. I get that it can be frustrating to have to even go through this, but it’s your job to listen to your doctors. Give it a good faith effort and know that if things don’t work out, there are protections for you.
The bottom line though is that you aren’t allowed to make medical decisions for yourself. That sounds ludicrous as it’s your body, your injury and your life we are talking about. If you want benefits though, while nobody can make you have a surgery or other invasive medical procedure, you can’t choose to stay at home and get paid if no doctor thinks that is medically necessary.
As I said, this is one of the common calls we get. If you have concern about your situation whether it’s this or any other Illinois work comp issue, call us any time for a free consultation at (312) 346-5578 or fill out our form online. We are based in Chicago, but help with work injuries everywhere in Illinois via our state wide group of like minded lawyers.