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Leep, Tescher, Helfman And Zanze

Understanding work restrictions in workers’ compensation

Despite the fact that workers’ comp can provide medical and financial lifelines for injured workers, few people want to be off work any longer than necessary.

However, part of the workers’ compensation process is determining whether you need temporary or permanent work restrictions once you return.

What are work restrictions?

Work restrictions are medical guidelines established by the doctor in charge of your care that are designed to modify or limit your work-related activities. Work restrictions are important to:

  • Employee safety: The primary goal of work restrictions is to prevent you, the injured worker, from engaging in activities that could cause you additional harm.
  • Faster recoveries: By tailoring your job duties to accommodate your condition, work restrictions help speed your recovery process along and ease you back into the workforce.
  • Legal compliance: Employers and insurance carriers are obligated to follow the work restrictions set by the treating physician. Failing to do so can result in serious legal consequences and potential penalties.

Work restrictions also benefit employers and their insurers. Even if you can only return to work in a limited capacity, your wage replacement benefits will be reduced, and that directly affects their bottom line.

What are some common work restrictions?

Your work restrictions are supposed to be carefully tailored to your unique situation, so they can vary considerably from case to case. Commonly, however, they include things like physical restrictions (such as how much lifting, standing, walking or pushing and pulling you have to do) or time restrictions that provide for a limited or flexible schedule to accommodate your needs.

If your employer is able to offer you a suitable position that complies with the limitations described by your physician, is within a reasonable commute from the place you lived when you were injured and is expected to last for at least a year and pay at least 85% of what you earned prior to your injury, you have 30 days to consider the offer and accept. If you fail to do so, the offer can be withdrawn and you will likely lose some or all of your workers’ comp cash benefits.

Unfortunately, employers can sometimes play loose and free with the rules – and what they’re offering may not really comply with a doctor’s recommendations. If that’s the case, you may need help exploring your legal options.