After a workplace accident or occupational injury, your primary goal is to get as better as possible as quickly as possible. That usually means returning to work as soon as you can. Although workers’ compensation benefits help cover the cost of medical bills and wage loss while you are off work after a work injury, these benefits do not take the place of a full-time salary and benefits.
Returning to work after a work injury must be done carefully. You must be sure that you are fully recovered from your injuries, that your doctor has cleared you to return to work, and that your employer will accommodate any work restrictions. If you cannot return to work or cannot perform your former occupation, there are potentially significant workers' compensation benefits available to you. If you have an offer of work from your employer, there are things you can do to ease the transition and set yourself up for success.
Medical professionals often recommend some form of therapy after a work injury. Therapy and other types of medical treatment can prepare you for a successful return to work so you can continue to support your family.
Physical therapy can help you achieve your goal of getting back to work after a work accident. A physical therapist will develop a plan that is targeted to a specific body part and tailored to meet your unique needs.
Common physical therapy treatment includes stretching, exercise, heat and cold treatments, aquatic exercise, and joint mobilization. Physical therapy can also include tissue massage and exercises to expand your range of motion.
Occupational therapy is often prescribed after a severe work injury and focuses on restoring a person’s ability to perform daily activities. These exercises will improve fine motor skills, restore balance, and assist with learning how to increase functional movements, sometimes with the assistance of adaptive equipment.
If you work with chemicals or suffer from an occupational disease, your medical provider may recommend respiratory therapy to maintain open airways and reduce the chance of respiratory distress. You may also be prescribed an inhaler or a portable oxygen tank to assist in your recovery.
Even if you are cleared to return to work, your physician might order work restrictions. Common work restrictions include:
When ordered by a doctor, these work restrictions are not options; your employer must respect them. To ease your transition back to work, you should provide these restrictions to your employer and request an offer of work that fits within these restrictions. However, understand that your employer is not required to “make work” for you if none is available.
If your employer offers you work that fits your restrictions, you must accept the offer. If you receive a reasonable offer and refuse it, you may not be able to claim additional workers’ compensation benefits. If you believe the work offer is unreasonable or does not fit within your restrictions, you should contact Kingree Law to discuss your situation.
The mere suspicion that your employer will not accommodate your work restrictions is not a basis to refuse the work offer. If you accept the offer and find that the work does not fit within your restrictions, you should document each and every instance in which you were required to work beyond your restrictions. If you have experienced several instances of being required to work beyond your restrictions, you may be able to refuse further work unless or until your employer accommodates your restrictions.
If you reach the end of the healing period and have permanent restrictions, you may be entitled to additional benefits for retraining (education) or loss of earning capacity. Those benefits would be in addition to the permanent partial disability (PPD) that your doctor assesses. If you sustain a wage loss after end of healing, you should contact Kingree Law right away. Loss of earning capacity or retraining benefits are often not paid by the worker’s compensation insurance carrier without a fight.
If your employer has extended a work offer that you believe is not reasonable, has repeatedly required that you work beyond your restrictions, makes an offer of work that does not fit within your restrictions, or if your restrictions prevent you from working in your former occupation, you should contact Kingree Law for help.
A work accident can happen even when all the proper safety precautions were taken. In some cases, a work accident can have catastrophic results and result in devastating injuries.
If you were injured at work or have questions about your return to work, Kingree Law can help. With offices in Madison and Eau Claire, Kingree Law proudly represents injured workers throughout Wisconsin.
To learn more, see our FAQ section and Information Center on workers’ compensation benefits. Then contact us today to schedule a free, confidential consultation to discuss your situation and how we can help.