When you have a serious workers compensation knee injury, the recovery after that injury can be difficult. Your doctor has to diagnose your injury and often orders diagnostic testing such as x-rays and MRIs to determine the extent of your injury.
Once your doctor diagnoses the knee injury, you will need medical treatment to recover. Often, this treatment includes medication, physical therapy, and even surgery.
Your knee injury will likely severely limit what you can do while you recover. Some common questions people have when they suffer a serious knee injury at work include:
- What do you do if your knee injury prevents you from doing your regular job?
- Can you do light duty work after a knee injury?
- After treatment, what should you do about returning to work if your knee does not get 100% better?
- What do you do if your employer does not want to bring you back to work or keep your job available?
These are just a few of the questions that you may have after you suffer a knee injury. This article will discuss how the workers compensation laws in Georgia affect your recovery and what happens if you can or cannot return to work after an injury.
Can I keep working after a workers compensation knee injury?
Georgia’s workers compensation law does allow you to keep working after a knee injury. To find out whether it is safe for you to keep working or not, you will need to consult with a doctor.
When you suffer an injury at work, your employer should provide you with medical treatment through workers compensation. In addition to diagnosing and treating your injury, your workers compensation treating doctor should make recommendations about whether you should work or not.
The workers compensation doctor’s recommendation should fall into one of these three categories:
- No work
- Work with some sort of restrictions or limitations
- Capable of performing regular duty work without restrictions
If your doctors has you on a “no work status”, then you probably should not be working. In this situation, the workers compensation insurance company should be paying you temporary total disability benefits while you are out of work. Doctors often put you on this work status when they are still evaluating the extent of your injury or have recently performed surgery.
If your doctor says that you can work without restrictions and you feel capable of doing that as well, then continuing to work could be a good option. But, what happens if you feel you cannot work but your doctor says you can?
This can create a difficult situation because the workers compensation doctor saying you can work will almost always result in your employer saying that you need to come into work. Also, you may have concerns that your employer will fire you or lay you off if you do not return to work and try to do your regular duty job. Most of the time, things can be done to address these problems. But, the best steps to take will depend on the specific facts in your situation.
What should you do if your doctor puts you on work restrictions?
Work restrictions come in many different forms. Many doctors offices use general restrictions similar to the physical exertion categories used by the Department of Labor in the Dictionary of Occupational Titles. These restrictions fall into five basic categories of work capacity:
- Very Heavy
Each category has different physical requirements associated with it, but the primary physical requirement that differentiates each category is lifting and carrying. A sedentary job is one that generally involves the least amount of lifting and carrying (not more than 10 pounds occasionally). A very heavy job involves the most lifting and carrying.
In addition to restrictions on lifting and carrying, knee injuries often result in restrictions on standing and walking. You should fall into a sedentary job category if you need to sit most of the time. Most desk jobs fall in to the sedentary category.
In addition to these limitations, knee injuries may also restrict your ability to climb, squat, kneel and do other activities. You should make sure your doctor addresses any work limitations you have in the paper documenting your work restrictions.
Doing this is especially important if you actually return to work. Most often, your employer will only follow what the doctor has said in writing. If all restrictions are not documented in writing, you could end up in a position you are not able to physically do.
Does my employer have to offer me a light duty job after knee surgery?
No. Georgia’s workers compensation law does not require that your employer offer you a light duty job. They can choose to not bring you back to work. If your employer does not offer you a light duty job, the workers compensation insurance company should pay you temporary total disability benefits.
Other areas of the law may require that your employer try to accommodate your work restrictions. One area of the law that may cover you is the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) If you qualify for protection under it, the American with Disabilities Act might require your employer to provide accommodations that allow you to return to work.
What happens if my employer offers me a light duty job and I refuse to return to work?
Georgia workers compensation law has special rules about offers of light duty jobs and what happens when you accept or refuse them. These rules make this area a particularly complicated area of the law. This article I wrote discusses those special rules in detail.
These rules affect whether your benefits will automatically be restarted if you attempt the light duty job but then cannot perform it. If you do not attempt a light duty job offered by your employer, your weekly workers compensation check could be suspended. If you attempt the job, the special rules have time period which apply to determine whether your attempt was good enough if you are unable to continue doing the job.
You may end up receiving a document called a Form WC-240 which offers the job to you. If you do, the job offer should also contain something from your workers compensation doctor indicating the doctor’s opinion that the job is suitable.
These special rules regarding light duty job offers can be helpful, but they are a very complicated and tricky part of Georgia’s workers compensation law. If you do not understand them completely or have a workers compensation attorney representing you who does, you can find yourself in a very sticky situation after trying to return to work at a light duty job.
What if I get fired because of my knee injury?
The first question many people have is whether they can get fired by their employer while they are dealing with an ongoing workers compensation injury. It will depend on the reason that your employer fired you. Georgia law does not specifically prevent your employer from firing you while your injury is ongoing, but there are certain prohibited reasons for termination under state and federal law.
If your employer fires you, there are also special rules that apply in determining whether you will receive future workers compensation wage loss benefits. Which rules apply will depend on why your employer fired you.
If your employer fires you because of your knee injury, the workers compensation insurance company should start paying you temporary total disability benefits. But, most employers will not admit that they fired you because you got hurt. They may come up with some other reason that they fired you or simply not give you a reason. You can still try to prove they fired you because of your injury, but proving that may be difficult.
So, you will likely have to find some other way of proving that you should get workers compensation benefits after you are fired. This usually involves proving one of two things:
- You cannot work at all, or
- You have work restrictions as a result of your injury, have done a good faith job search, and cannot find a job somewhere else because of those restrictions.
In both of these situations, it usually takes going to court and getting a decision from a workers compensation judge to get your benefits restarted. While this can take a while, many people have to pursue this route if they get fired and have not completely recovered from their knee injury.