Options if You Are Struggling to Return to Work After an Injury
Written by AskTheLawyers.com™ on behalf of Rebecca K. Halberg with Stottlemyer & Associates, LLC.
Returning to work after an injury can be painful and stress-inducing, but is inevitable for many people who rely on regular paychecks to pay their daily expenses. It’s important to always consult with your doctor and your employer before returning to work after an injury to avoid doing more damage. If the injury is not fully healed or is healed but has limited your ability to work in the same way you did before, it may be possible to coordinate with your doctor and employer to decide on an approach to your return that will put the least amount of strain on your body. Depending on the circumstances, it may be possible for an employer to modify your job or the way your job is conducted, taking into account the new limitations you may be experiencing based on your injury.
The following questions can help identify options if you are struggling to return to work after an injury:
- Would reasonable accommodations allow you to work at the same capacity as prior to the injury? A “reasonable accommodation” refers to any change to a job or the way the job is done that allows a person with an ongoing injury or disability to adequately perform the essential functions of that job. For an accommodation to be “reasonable,” it must not result in any undue hardship to the employer. Employers are legally required to offer reasonable accommodations whenever possible, so this might be an option to discuss with your employer if your injury is giving you grief at work.
- Are you eligible for partial disability? For people who are unable to perform certain important aspects of their job following a severe injury or illness, it may be possible to file for partial disability. Individuals who are eligible for partial disability may be able to receive monthly compensation in an amount equal to a certain percentage of the wages they could expect if they had not become partially disabled. However, the process of filing a partial disability claim with the correct party can be tricky, and it is not uncommon for claims to be denied due to clerical errors. It’s a good idea to talk to a workplace injury attorney if you suspect you are eligible for partial disability.
- Will your employer offer retraining for a job you can do? If an employee is unable to perform the same job they did before following a serious injury or illness, and there are no reasonable accommodations an employer can make to return them to the same position, it may be possible to argue for retraining. Retraining can be an alternative to reasonable accommodations, where an employer agrees to retrain an employee for a different position they can perform in light of their injury, illness, or disability.
- Has your earning capacity been permanently affected by the injury? If someone’s earning capacity has been permanently affected by an injury, it may be possible to file a claim against whoever was responsible for the injury. For example, if the injury occurred in a car accident where the other party was at fault, it may be possible to seek compensation for loss of earning capacity in a car accident lawsuit. However, if the injury occurred while on the job, it may be possible to file a workplace injury claim against your employer or whatever third party was responsible for the injury. Permanent loss of earning capacity is a significant damage; it’s important to look into every option for recovery when this situation arises.
To learn more about your options for workplace accommodations, earning compensation, or eligibility to file a claim following a serious injury or illness that affects your ability to work, reach out to a workplace injury attorney in your area.