And if I find work, what do I need to do, and how does this affect my case?
The answer is “yes.” You can look for work while you’re receiving wage loss benefits under the PA Workers’ Compensation Act. In fact, we encourage our clients to look for work whenever their doctor says they can work. After all, the goal of the workers’ compensation system is to provide an injured worker with wage replacement and health care benefits until they can return to some kind of work. Workers’ compensation is meant to be a temporary benefit for most injured workers until they recover enough from their work injury to be able to return to work. The injury might prevent the worker from returning to their regular job, but hopefully their recovery will allow them to return to some kind of work, either with the old employer, or with a new one. However, it is imperative that you only return to work within your doctor’s restrictions. Going back to work to a job that is outside of your restrictions could result in you doing more harm to yourself than good. You might receive a document from the workers’ compensation insurance carrier; this is called a ‘Notice of Ability to Return to Work‘. The insurance company is required by law to send you this document whenever they receive medical information from any source that you are able to work. The notice is typically based on an opinion from the employer’s panel doctor, or an IME doctor that they have sent you to. You are not obligated to return to work just because you received a Notice of Ability to Return to Work. You should, again, discuss your ability to work with your doctor. If he clears you to return to work, you may then explore work within your doctor’s restrictions. Your own doctor should dictate whether or not you are able to return to work.
If you find work, you need to immediately tell your attorney so he can advise the insurance company that you are working, and so your workers’ compensation benefits can be adjusted. Any wages earned while you are receiving workers’ compensation wage loss benefits will offset or reduce your compensation. Working and receiving your full workers’ compensation benefits is considered fraud and can result in both criminal and civil penalties being filed against you. Therefore, it is important that you report the fact that you’ve returned to work as quickly as possible. The workers’ compensation insurance company might send you various reporting forms, that ask whether you’ve returned to work, or if you’re receiving any other benefits including unemployment compensation, severance or pensions benefits, and social security retirement benefits. It is important that you complete these forms within 30 days of receiving them or the insurance company can automatically stop your wage loss benefits. It is also important for you to be truthful on these reporting forms! Documenting false or misleading information on these forms will definitely come back to haunt you, not only in your workers’ compensation case, but in a criminal case filed against you by your employer for insurance fraud.
Don’t be afraid to look for work while you’re on compensation, when your doctor says it’s okay. The goal in workers’ compensation cases is to get an injured worker back to work, if possible, so that they can earn the kind of wages they did before their injury. You should contact an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer if you have any questions regarding going back to work after a work injury.