While you obviously don’t want to get hurt at work, if you do, you certainly want to make a great medical recovery For most workers, after treatment they will return to their normal job and move on with their lives. For others though they won’t make a full recovery. When that happens and your doctor thinks nothing else can be done for you, they will either decide you are permanently disabled from working or release you to return to work with permanent restrictions.
Permanent restrictions typically happen in heavy duty jobs that require a lot of lifting or when it’s clear that your job duties will likely re-injure you. So if you have a severe case of carpal tunnel and your doctor thinks that if you type eight hours a day will bring back the problem, they might release you to return but restrict typing to only an hour a day. If you have a back or arm injury, it’s not uncommon to get a release to work that has a lifting restriction. Sometimes they limit the amount you can lift and other times they limit the frequency.
So the question is, what happens after you get released with permanent restrictions?
The answer at first depends on your employer. If they can accommodate your restrictions, you can return to that job and see how it goes. Hopefully you can work for some time without problems. From our standpoint, we want to know if this is a legitimate job or if they only created a fake one for you in order to limit your work comp benefits. We’ve seen some cases where laborers are asked to sit in an office and stuff envelopes. That’s not a real job and usually we’d advise those clients to not settle their case any time soon and see if the job really exists in six months.
Sometimes you are told they will follow your doctor’s orders, but they don’t. A common scenario is a worker with a 20 pound lifting restriction. They’ll get a real supervisor type role, but get constantly asked to help with lifting. Often other workers or the boss will pressure them. In other cases it becomes clear the job can’t be done without violating the restrictions. In these cases we usually advise our clients to not risk hurting themselves. If you were to get fired for not doing these activities, we believe it would be illegal and your work comp benefits should start again.
Other times you’ll try to work within the restrictions and it turns out that work is too much for you to handle. If that happens then you should return to your doctor and get their guidance. Often they will again take you off work or order some occupational therapy to help you return to work.
And if you are able to successfully return to work with the limits in place, at some point after three to six months it will be time to talk settlement. The value of your case will increase since you can’t work a full duty, normal job.
On the other hand, if they can’t accommodate your restrictions, you have some work to do. The first step is to start looking for a job on your own and keep a log of the jobs you apply for or inquire about. You will be required to turn this list in to keep your workers’ compensation benefits going. They are called maintenance benefits, but are paid at the same rate as your TTD.
If you are unable to find a job you can ask for vocational rehabilitation assistance. This will allow your to hire a vocational expert at the expense of the insurance company who will assist you in looking for work. During this process your pay should continue. Often they will discover, especially if you were a high wage earner, that the only jobs you can get will pay you much less than what you used to make. In those cases this will help establish that you are entitled to wage differential benefits which are 2/3 of what you would be making in your old job compared to what you can make now. That pay would continue until you are 65 (or for five years, whichever is longer).
While this is a basic explanation, the bottom line is that if you are hurt at work and do have permanent restrictions, there is a lot to think about and the safest thing to do is talk to a lawyer who is experienced. If you would like to have a free consultation with one of our lawyers, please call us any time at 312-346-5578. We help with cases all throughout Illinois.