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Returning to Work after a Workers Compensation Neck Injury

  • What do you do after you get medical treatment for your workers compensation neck injury?
  • Can you go back to work?
  • What if you have problems doing the job?

These are good questions, and I get asked them a lot.  With good medical treatment, serious workers compensation injuries can get better.  But, you do not always have a complete recovery so you may still have some problems.

When you continue to have problems with a neck injury that affect your ability to work, you need to understand the Georgia rules about going back to work in a workers compensation case.  In this article, I am going to address a number of those questions and discuss the rules about returning to work.

Woman neck painHow could a neck injury affect what I am able to do at work

My clients with neck injuries often have pain in their neck which increases with movement of their neck.  Many of them have problems with pain in their arms as well.

These problems limit them in many ways.  They have problems looking up, down, or side to side.  These limitations affect almost any type of activity they do from looking at a screen to driving.

Lifting anything heavy will often cause them increased pain, especially if they had to lift or work above head level.  Repetitive use of their arms or hands also causes difficulty.

Certain types of serious neck injuries also cause people to have problems in their legs as well.  These types of injuries may make it difficult for someone to walk or stand for an extended period of time.

Depending on your particular job, limitations like the one mentioned above may make it difficult for you to safely and effectively return to work.

Are there dangers I need to know about if I return to work?

Yes.  You can run into several problems when you return to work after an injury.  I have mentioned a few of them below.

Your employer might try to find a reason to fire you

Usually, your weekly workers compensation benefits stop when you return to work.  I speak to many people who end up getting fired by their employer some time after they return to work.

Because of how Georgia’s workers compensation law is set up, it can make it more difficult to get your workers compensation benefits restarted if your employer fires you after returning to work.

If you return to work for more than 15 scheduled workdays, it can make it harder to get benefits later

As I discuss further below, Georgia has special rules that apply when you return to a light duty job.  How those rules apply to you will depend on how long you work the light duty job.

Sometimes, someone will try a light duty job for a few weeks and not be able to continue doing it.  The way that Georgia’s special rules are set up, it make it more difficult to get temporary total disability benefits again if you try the job for more than 15 scheduled workdays.

If you go more than two years without getting wage loss benefits, you will probably not be able to get them again

I have spoken with many people who were able to successfully return to a light duty job for a long time despite continuing to have problems from their workers compensation injury.  People in this situation have to be concerned with another strange Georgia law know as the change in condition statute of limitations.

This law says that if you go more than two years without receiving wage loss (temporary total or temporary partial disability benefits) that you cannot ever receive them again in that claim.  This can really be a problem for someone who is able to work for some time but then has to come out of work because their condition gets worse or they need surgery.

What happens if my neck injury prevents me from returning to my regular job?

Quite often, your neck injury may prevent you from going back to your regular job.  In most of these situation, your workers compensation authorized treating physician will give you work restrictions saying what you can and cannot do.

When those restrictions prevent you from returning to work, the workers compensation insurance company will usually have to pay you temporary total disability benefits.  You do need to know that there are limits that affect how long you can receive these benefits.

Your employer may offer you a light duty job.  Georgia law has special rules about how your employer has to offer a job and what happens if you return to a light duty job and cannot keep performing it.  If your employer offers you a light duty job, be sure and read this article to get some information about those special rules.

Female doctor examines elderly patients neck with collarDoes my employer have to provide me with a light duty job that is suitable to my restrictions?

No.  Georgia’s workers compensation law does not require your employer to provide you with a suitable light duty job.  They can either provide you with a suitable job or continue paying you workers compensation benefits.

Now, it is important to understand that only covers Georgia’s workers compensation rules.  It is possible that other laws might require your employer to provide a job that accommodates your work restrictions.

What happens if I cannot go back to work after a workers compensation neck injury?

In most situations, you will continue receiving temporary total disability benefits when your neck injury prevents you from returning to work.  As I mentioned above, most Georgia workers compensation cases have limits on how long you can receive these benefits.

The basic limit on temporary total disability benefits is 400 weeks from your date of injury.  But, this limit can be shortened in some situations and extended in others.

One of the most common was that the time for benefits is shortened is when a Form WC-104 is filed.    If you qualify for a catastrophic designation, you can receive temporary total disability benefits past the 400 weeks limit.

Can I settle my workers compensation case?

You can settle your workers’ compensation case at any point.  To do so, you or your attorney have to agree on a settlement amount with the workers compensation insurance company.  Then, the settlement paperwork has to be approved by a judge at the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation.

But, before you jump into settling your case, you will want to stop and think about a few things.  The most important are whether you want to settle and whether it is a good time to settle your case.

Settlement of your worker compensation case is final.  So, you generally cannot come back and undo it after the settlement has been approved.  If you are thinking about settlement of your case or just want to know a little more about it, I would suggest taking a look at this article I wrote.

What if I have other questions about workers compensation?

Georgia’s workers compensation system can be very confusing.  You have to worry about getting the treatment you need and paying your bills while also worrying about not missing any deadlines that could cause you to lose your right to receive workers compensation benefits.

If you have questions, I would recommend that you try to get answers.  To find out more about how to schedule a time to talk to me about your workers compensation questions, just read this short article.

Jason Perkins is an attorney who specializes in representing injured workers.  He regularly publishes videos and write blog articles about Georgia’s workers compensation system and issues that are important to injured workers and their families. To be notified of Jason’s new workers compensation videos, subscribe to his Georgia Workers Compensation Video Series channel on YouTube by clicking the subscribe button below.

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Jason Perkins

Workers' Compensation Attorney

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