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Injured on the job and returning to work

California workers who are injured on the job or have an occupational disease can get workers' compensation benefits if they are eligible. A gray area that often arises, however, is when they would like to return to work and have not fully recovered. This can be an issue with workers' compensation benefits and how it is handled. If the employer can offer a job suitable to the employee's circumstances, then the person can return to work. The time at which the injury occurred is important.

For people who suffered the injury during 2013 or after that year and the employer has work to offer, the person will receive a notice from the claims administrator regarding regular work that has been modified or is an alternative form of work. This is required to be sent within 60 days of the claims administrator learning that the worker is now suffering from a permanent and stationary (P&S) circumstance rather than permanent partial disability. This form must be completed by a physician and returned.

The job offer must be a job that the worker can perform. It must also: meet the doctor's work restrictions; last for a minimum of 12 months; and the distance of the commute must be reasonable based on the workers' residence when the injury occurred. It could involve regular work at the usual job or position when the injury occurred and the benefits and wages must be the same. It could also involve modified work with changes that adhere to the restrictions from the doctor and must pay 85 percent of the benefits and wages different from the previous employment and adheres to restrictions issued by the doctor while paying the previously mentioned 85 percent the worker received when he or she was injured.

The worker will have 30 days to accept the offer. The claims administrator is under no requirement to offer a supplemental job displacement regardless of whether the offer is accepted or not. If the employer does not offer employment and the injury has resulted in permanent partial disability, then it is a requirement for the claims administrator to provide a supplemental job displacement, alternatively known as a voucher.

There are different rules for workers injured between 2004 and 2012 and these will be discussed in a later post. Having legal assistance regardless of the circumstances is one of the most important factors in maximizing workers' compensation benefits and being protected. A lawyer experienced in all aspects of workers' compensation can help.

Source: dir.ca.gov, "Workers' Compensation in California -- Can I return to work for my employer even if I don't fully recover?, page 28," accessed on Feb. 20, 2018

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