Injured workers often ask, “If I cannot do my job, because of my work injury, should I just quit?”
This is a trick question. Workers’ compensation provides wage-loss benefits for injured workers, who are unable to return to suitable gainful employment as a result of their work-related injuries. But, if you quit your job, then you put your ability to receive wage-loss benefits at risk.
Don’t Quit, You Have Options
Many injured workers don’t think they have a choice – they think that they must quit, because they cannot perform their usual job duties as a result of their injuries. Don’t fall into this trap. Your employer and its workers’ compensation insurer want you to quit, so that they can avoid responsibility for paying you wage-loss benefits. They may even give you a mindless light-duty job, hoping that you will quit. Don’t do it. Don’t quit.
Seek Medical Treatment
If you are injured at work and cannot perform your usual job duties due to your work-related injuries, you have options. You should seek medical care for your injuries and ask your doctor for work restrictions. Work restrictions are “rules” provided by a healthcare professional limiting the work you can do as a result of your work-related injury (due to your new limitations, or to prevent further injury).
Get Work Restrictions
There are many different types of work restrictions.
Work restrictions limit the weight you can lift, push, or pull. For example, a doctor treating a patient with a work-related shoulder injury, might restrict him from lifting more than 10 pounds above shoulder height.
Other work restrictions may limit the amount of time you can perform certain activities. For example, a doctor treating a patient with work-related plantar fasciitis, may restrict her from standing more than two hours at a time.
In certain cases, including when an employee sustains a work-related mental health injury like PTSD, or when an employee has sustained a catastrophic injury requiring surgery or other more invasive treatment, a doctor may restrict a patient from performing any work.
Your doctor will provide you with appropriate restrictions based on your specific work injury or injuries. But, often, in order to get restrictions, you must ask for them.
Impact of Work Restrictions
Once you have work restrictions, you must notify your employer. Your employer will then decide whether and how it will accommodate your work restrictions. For example, if an employee is restricted from sitting for longer than two hours at a time due to a back injury, then the employer might provide him with a standing desk. There are many ways an employer can accommodate work restrictions.
Another way that the employer can accommodate an employee’s work restrictions, is by granting a medical leave of absence. Whether or not your medical leave of absence is paid or unpaid will depend on your employment contract (or, your union contract, if applicable). If you are on an unpaid medical leave of absence, then you may be entitled to short-term or long-term disability benefits.
If the employer and its workers’ compensation insurer has admitted liability for your work-related injury, then you may be entitled to wage-loss benefits. Wage-loss benefits are available if you are working at a wage loss or you are unable to return to work due to your work-related injury or injuries.
Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)
If you can return to work, but you are working at a wage loss due to your work-related injury, then you may be entitled to Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) benefits.
Temporary Partial Disability (TPD) is a wage-loss benefit that you may be entitled to if you are working at a wage-loss as a result of your injury. You may be working fewer hours per week or earning less money per hour. Either way, you would be entitled to 2/3 of your wage loss in the form of TPD benefits.
For example, if your doctor has restricted you from working more than four hours a day, due to a knee injury, but you normally work eight hours a day, then you would be losing out on four hours of pay. In that situation, you would be entitled to 2/3 of your wage loss (2/3 of the difference in pay as a result of working four hours per day rather than eight hours per day).
Temporary Total Disability (TTD)
If you are completely unable to work due to your work-related injuries (and you are not on a paid medical leave of absence), then you may be entitled to Temporary Total Disability (TTD) benefits.
Temporary Total Disability (TTD) is a wage-loss benefit that you may be entitled to if you are completely unable to work as a result of your work-related injury. For example, if you are completely restricted from returning to work in any capacity then you would be entitled to 2/3 of your wage loss in the form of TTD benefits, during the period that he/she is unable to work.
This is a common situation faced by Police Officers, Firefighters, EMTs, and other first responders who have work-related PTSD and are completely restricted from returning to work due to their work-related injury. Unfortunately, many employees in this situation simply use sick time or vacation time to pay their bills, without realizing that they may be entitled to workers’ compensation wage-loss benefits.
Permanent Total Disability (PTD)
In rare cases, involving catastrophic work-related injuries, an employee may be forever unable to return to work in any capacity. In that situation, you may be entitled to 2/3 of your wage loss in the form of PTD benefits through age 72 (depending on the date of injury).
What Happens if I Quit?
If you quit, then your employer and its insurer may argue that you have “voluntarily left the labor market,” that you “refused an offer of suitable gainful employment,” or that you “retired” and are, therefore, no longer entitled to wage-loss benefits, including Temporary Partial Disability, Temporary Total Disability, and Permanent Total Disability benefits.
That is why, if you are thinking about quitting, because you cannot perform your job duties due to your work-related injury or injuries, you should consult with an attorney who understands the workers’ compensation system, to develop a plan to protect your interests.
Call Today for a Free Consultation
If you are thinking about quitting, because you can no longer perform your job duties due to a work-related injury, then please call Meuser, Yackley & Rowland for a FREE consultation. Our team of attorneys will work with you to develop a plan to get medical treatment and work restrictions and ensure that your right to future wage loss benefits is protected.