Returning to Work after a Work Injury: Workers’ Compensation and Benefits

Returning to Work after a Work Injury: Workers’ Compensation and Benefits

Returning to work after recovering from a work injury comes with its own set of adjustment issues. If the time period of leave has been long, there might be significant changes in the workplace in terms of working style and management. Even your job responsibilities might have changed.  Your physical capabilities might have changed, and you might not be able to perform some of the tasks you were previously able to perform.  Management might also treat you differently, maybe because they are dissatisfied with the fact that you filed a workers’ compensation claim, or simply because the staff has changed and they do not know you.  It can be very difficult to get back into work mode.


Temporary Total Disability Benefits/Medical Benefits/Permanent Partial Disability Benefits

If workers are disabled from working (i.e., “on leave”) due to a compensable injury suffered while at work, they should be entitled to compensation to replace lost wages for the period of absence. Doctor or physician notes assigning work restrictions due to the work injury are extremely important and can be used as a basis for receiving compensation to replace lost wages. The compensation to replace lost wages received by an injured worker is usually less than his salary. In addition, Employers and workers’ compensation insurance companies should pay the medical bills of the employee recovering from injuries. The benefits provided should also include all prescription costs and travel expenses for treatment. In the case of a permanent disability, the worker should also be entitled to a monetary reward for the disability.  Navigating the intricacies of the Georgia Workers’ Compensation law and what benefits the law provides for is an extremely complex process – it requires not only knowing the statutory laws but also judicial interpretation of the law.  Therefore, injured workers should seek representation from an attorney who practices in the area of workers’ compensation law.  Our law firm practices exclusively Georgia workers’ compensation law.  


Returning to Work in the Same Workplace

O.C.G.A. 34-9-240 provides that “… if the authorized treating physician releases an employee to return to work with restrictions and the employer tenders a suitable job to such employee within those restrictions, then:  (1) If such employee attempts the proffered job for eight cumulative hours or one scheduled workday, whichever is greater, but is unable to perform the job for more than 15 working days, then weekly benefits shall be immediately reinstated, and the burden shall be upon the employer to prove that such employee is not entitled to continuing benefits; or  (2) If such employee attempts the proffered job for less than eight cumulative hours or one scheduled workday, whichever is greater, or refuses to attempt the proffered job, then the employer may unilaterally suspend benefits upon filing with the board the appropriate form with supporting documentation of the release to return to work with restrictions by the authorized treating physician, the tender of a suitable job within those restrictions, and a statement that such employee did not attempt the proffered job. Under those circumstances, the burden shall shift to the employee to prove continuing entitlement to benefits.


What about FMLA

The Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides certain employees, not all employees, with up to 12 weeks of unpaid, job-protected leave per year.  In addition, FMLA also requires that their group health benefits be maintained during the leave.  The employee must have worked for their employer for at least 12 months with a certain number of cumulative hours and work at the location where the company employs 50 or more employees within 75 miles.  FMLA is a good thing for injured workers who qualify; it protects their jobs and any health insurance benefits, however the protection is for only a limited period of time.  


Assess your Capabilities

Financial requirements are a big factor in returning to work. Just as an employer might want to rush employees back to work, employees are often eager to get back to work as well. The benefits include receiving a paycheck for work performed, contributing at work or being around their co-workers, and feeling like a productive member of society.  Again, make sure you have medical clearance to return to work. Also, make sure you are properly trained to handle any new changes in the workplace. Just make sure the time is right. If it is, make sure you attend all training sessions offered and prepare yourself well.


Returning to Work in a New Environment

In case your old employer no longer has work deemed fit or appropriate for you, contact our law firm. We will determine if we are able to assist you with your workers’ compensation claim.  We can also direct you to services that assist injured workers in finding potential new jobs. By hiring an experienced attorney to represent you, you’re taking the right steps to ensure the best possible outcome for you and your family.

You worked hard for your employer, you got hurt and now there’s a lot of uncertainty in your life. That’s exactly why we’re here. Employer’s insurance companies look at you as just a number. We look at you as a person with a future and we will fight for you every step of the way. If you’d like more information or a free consultation, please give us a call today.