A lot of the questions I get about Illinois workers comp law happen because employers put crazy thoughts into the heads of their employees. One recently didn’t think he could go to the ER without a co-worker driving him because his boss said so. Another thought that if you got injured on the job it was a requirement that you sit out for two weeks. He thought that because it’s what his foreman said.

So how soon should you return to work if you get injured on the job in Illinois?

The answer is relatively simple. Listen to whatever your doctor says. If they say you can’t work due to your injury then you don’t. That could be days, weeks, months or with terrible injuries even years. Usually they’ll initially authorize you off work for 2-4 weeks and then re-evaluate you. If you’re in physical therapy or receive a steroid injection, they’ll probably take you off work for another 2-4 weeks and see where you are at after that. If you have a surgery, there’s usually a minimum period for your body to heal. So if you have a back surgery, it wouldn’t be unusual for your doctor to state that you have to be off work for three months.

In other words, even if you end up being off work for many months or years, your doctor won’t state that at the beginning and the hope of course is that you’ll get healthy sooner rather than later.

In some cases, you can do work, but not your full duty job. You might have a restriction that says no lifting over 20 pounds for example. If you are a teacher, secretary or (gasp) a lawyer, you can probably do your normal job still. But professions like nursing or construction usually will prevent you from returning to work. If your employer can’t or won’t accommodate your work restrictions, you won’t be able to return to work, but you should continue to get work comp TTD benefits as you recover.

Other times your doctor will tell you that you can return to work full duty, but your body is telling you otherwise. In those situations, you should express your concern to your doctor and have a hopefully thoughtful discussion about it. You need to make clear the pain you are experiencing and what your job duties are. If they still want to send you back to work, you don’t have to go, but if you don’t, you also won’t get TTD benefits and could lose your job. We usually advise people in those situations that if they can to give it a shot and see what happens. If the pain is too great you can then you can go back to your doctor and discuss it from there.

The bottom line is that every case is different and your health should be priority number one. Beware an employer who tries to pressure you to return to work or one that says they’ll accommodate your restrictions, but doesn’t. Those are the ones that make a short term injury into a serious, life altering one.

And as always, if you have any questions, please call us to speak with a lawyer for free any time. We cover all of Illinois.