Most work injuries result only in a partial day’s absence. But more serious injuries can require a lengthier recovery period. For example, someone who performs a physical job and breaks a bone may need to remain away from work or on limited duty for weeks until the injury is healed. If you have suffered a work injury, the medical treatment you need will in large part determine when you can return to work, if at all.
Workers’ compensation can help by covering the costs of your medical care, as well as lost income. So who determines when you are ready to go back to your job?
The physician generally has the final say, although second opinion may be necessary
The doctor overseeing your treatment is in a very important role. The doctor can set the limits for your daily job duties and recommend specific treatments. The doctor’s opinion can also influence any on-the-job accommodations your employer may provide once you are able to return to work. Your doctor’s medical determinations may also affect any disability benefits you might need.
The doctor overseeing an injured worker’s care will also ultimately determine when those benefits end. In some cases, workers make a full recovery and no longer have any need for treatment. In other cases, a full recovery may not be possible, and Social Security Disability (SSD) benefits may be needed.
If you disagree with a doctor’s opinion, you may be able to get a second opinion that supports your claim for workers’ compensation or SSD benefits. It is a good idea to talk to an attorney with experience in these matters if your doctor is trying to send you back to work before you are able.
It is crucial to get medical treatment for your health, and to create a record of your injury
After a work injury, your first step should be to get the medical treatment you need. This is important for your health, but also because your workers’ compensation or disability claim will be based largely on the medical evidence of your injury. Another crucial step is to report your injury to your employer. For more on these matters, please see our overview of “Getting Medical Treatment.”