Light Duty Job Offers After a Work Injury
If you have been injured, you probably want to get better and go back to work as quickly as possible. Sometimes, though, you may be asked to come back too soon or to do a job that is too hard for you. If your employer offers you a light duty job, it is important to understand how this affects your right to receive Georgia workers’ compensation benefits. In many situations, trying the light duty job will likely mean the difference between getting a check and not. Besides the obvious, immediate effect this will have on your family’s weekly income, it can impact your entire workers’ compensation claim. There are a few things you need to know to avoid potential traps that could damage your case.
Rules of Light Duty Job Offers
Many insurance companies will try to get your doctor to release you to return to limited duty work and then try to get your employer to offer work within the doctor’s limitations. Getting well and getting back to work is in your best interest, but be careful. There are dangers lurking here that you need to consider, especially when your employer follows the rules laid out in O.C.G.A. § 34-9-240 and Board Rule 240. These rules call for the employer to use a forms provided by the Georgia State Board of Workers’ Compensation including a form WC-240A (a job description submitted to your treating physician for approval) and a WC-240 (the actual notice that the light duty job is being offered to you and your doctor has approved it).
Should I Attempt the Light Duty Job
The first thing you should be concerned about if you receive a light duty job offer on a Form WC-240 is that the insurance company may be able to stop your workers’ compensation weekly benefit check if you do not try the job. OCGA §34-9-240 provides that an insurance company may suspend benefits immediately if you refuse suitable work that is offered to you on the specified Georgia State Board forms. If you try the job for more than eight (8) hours but have to stop it after less than fifteen (15) scheduled work days, the insurance company must restart your workers’ compensation checks immediately. If the insurance company wants to contest your right to further workers’ compensation benefits, they can file for a hearing with a judge who will decide whether the job that has been offered to you is suitable. But, the important difference here is that you will receive your check while you are waiting on your court date. If you don’t try the light duty job and they suspend your benefits, you probably will not have any income until a judge rules in your favor (many months later).
Because trying the light duty job will likely mean the difference between getting a check and not, it is usually in your best interests to try the job and see if you can do it. Besides, if you find that you are able to do the job, you may be paid full pay instead of the reduced weekly amount that workers’ compensation pays. If you try the job and then stop because you cannot continue doing it, your employer and their insurance will likely say the job is suitable and you should have continued working. That will be the argument that will then head to court – is the light duty job within the restrictions your doctor gave for your work injury?
Do I Need Help?
This is a highly technical and tricky area of Georgia workers’ compensation law. It is important to know what you are facing and what your options are before you actually return to attempt the light duty work. There are several steps that must be taken and specific forms that must be sent to you and your doctor. Our attorneys find that many times employers and insurers do not follow all these steps.
It is a good idea to consult with an attorney specializing in workers’ compensation as soon as you become aware that your employer wants to bring you back to work on light duty. At Perkins Studdard, three of our attorneys specialize in Georgia workers’ compensation cases. They have advised numerous clients through the return to work process and have litigated these cases through successful hearings and appeals. To get a free consultation with one of them, simply fill out the “Need Help” form or call the phone number on the right side of this page.
Stay tuned for an upcoming blog on how long you should try a light duty job and see our recent article on the 2013 changes to the Georgia workers’ compensation return to work laws.