An Injured Worker Being Released to Light Duty

Okay, so you get injured at work.  You get treatment with a doctor, maybe have a course of physical therapy, then you start to feel a little better.  You are not all better yet, and you cannot go back to your regular job, but maybe you could do some kind of work.  So the doctor releases you to light duty work.  What then?

First, let’s talk about what does not happen.  If you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits, as you should be if you are disabled by the work injury, then benefits cannot just be stopped (unless you are being paid under a Notice of Temporary Compensation Payable, which can be revoked within 90 days).  Unless work is shown to be available to you (within your physical restrictions), temporary total disability benefits should continue.

Work could be shown to be “available” to you with your employer, perhaps at a modified version of your former job, or a different job entirely.  Or, work could be shown to be available to you with a totally different employer.  This can be done through a “Labor Market Survey” or “Earning Power Assessment.”  In this situation, the light duty job need not actually be offered to you, it just needs to be generally available (like listed in the “help wanted” section in a newspaper or online).  There is also a tool used by workers’ compensation insurance carriers called “funded employment,” where the insurance carrier actually pays you to work at a charity.

Whether a modified job is through your employer or another, you are entitled to partial disability benefits if you are making less money because of the work injury.  This may occur because the hourly rate of the modified job is lower than your regular job, or it could be that the modified job is available for fewer hours (or that overtime, which had been available with your regular job, is not available while in a modified job).

There are many factors and complications when an injured gets released to light duty work, and the workers’ comp insurance company starts trying to reduce the workers’ compensation benefits they are paying.  If you do not already have an attorney, it would be wise to get one at this point.  Things can happen at this point in a case which cannot later be fixed by an attorney.  Even when you try to do the right thing, not knowing the law can cause problems in your case.