If you have a serious on the job injury, you may be out of work for quite a while. When you begin to recover and heal from your injuries, your doctor may eventually say that you are well enough to return to light-duty work.
What is light-duty work?
The purpose behind light-duty work is to get you back to gainful employment and to help relieve the employer’s burden of paying future workers’ compensation benefits. An additional goal of light-duty work is to ease you back into the workforce by minimizing the risk of re-injury.
Light-duty work in a Virginia workers’ compensation claim means any work that has lesser or different exertion levels than the job you did before your injury. For instance, you may be a construction worker and your doctor may say that you can’t do any work involving lifting, climbing, etc. for a period of time. In that case, you would not be able to work in your pre-injury job as a construction worker. However, you might be able to do other work that complies with the limitations your doctor prescribed.
Light-Duty From Your Employer
Your employer may have some light-duty work available for you. If not, you will be required to apply for jobs at other companies that fit your restrictions. The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission has said that initially looking for jobs in the field that you are most familiar and comfortable is reasonable.
Working With A Rehabilitation Counselor
The workers’ compensation insurance company may have a rehabilitation specialist work with you to help you find a job that meets your restrictions. An injured worker generally has no responsibility to work with a vocational counselor unless the worker’s doctor has actually communicated that the worker has been released to light-duty work. However, usually the injured worker can’t refuse to meet with the vocational counselor. Such refusal can be seen as a failure to cooperate and your benefits can be terminated.
Also, if a rehabilitation counselor finds a light-duty job for you, you are usually able to have your doctor approve the job description before accepting. To be a valid light-duty job offer, the offer must be within the limitations imposed by your doctor. If your physician approves your light-duty job offer but the actual requirements of the job are different than the job description, the doctor’s approval becomes invalid. However, if the light-duty job description mirrors the doctor’s restrictions, there is typically no need for physician approval.
If a rehab specialist works with you, the rehab worker must make prior contacts with any employer before bringing you to interviews. This prevents the rehab worker from bringing you to meaningless interviews that would never be expected to result in suitable employment.
Refusal To Cooperate
If an injured worker refuses to cooperate with a vocational counselor that the employer provides, the workers’ compensation benefits may be suspended. Additionally, if you purposefully sabotage an interview that the rehab counselor gets for you, your benefits can be suspended for unreasonably refusing light-duty work. Usually, an injured worker can’t turn down a light-duty job simply because he or she can’t find childcare.
If a light-duty job pays less than you were making before your injury, you may be entitled to reimbursement of the difference from the employer. However, the goal behind rehabilitation and light-duty work is to eventually return you to the wage you were making at the time of your injury.
Education and Retraining
If you are unsuccessful in finding a job within your restrictions and it appears your restrictions may be permanent, the workers’ comp insurance company may be required to offer education or retraining for you. On the same note, if you incur expenses as a result of working with the vocational counselor or finding a job on your own, you may be entitled to reimbursement from the insurance company. For instance, you may be entitled to reasonable moving expenses, as well as the cost of transportation to and from vocational training courses.
As you can tell by all the rules involved just with light-duty work, workers’ compensation in Virginia can be a tremendously complex system to decipher. If you or a loved one are injured at work, it helps to have an experienced lawyer helping you. However, sometimes lawyers who handle cases other than injury cases don’t have the necessary experience to properly handle a workers’ compensation claim. The best workers’ compensation lawyers will be those who have handled this area of practice for many years and who have helped many injured clients.
At the Ritchie Law Firm, we’ve been helping injured workers for more than 40 years. We have helped thousands of workers get their workers’ compensation benefits. If you have been injured in Virginia, call our office at 800-277-6124 to discuss the possibility of a free consultation. There is no charge to talk to someone about your case. If you decide you would like us to help, we get no attorneys’ fees unless we are able to win for you. There is no risk for you to contact us, and we might be able to help or give you advice to put you on the right track.
Ritchie Law Firm is a personal injury law firm devoted to helping individuals who have suffered serious injuries as a result of a work accident. Ritchie Law Firm serves all of Virginia, while helping clients in cities and surrounding areas of Harrisonburg, Charlottesville, Staunton, and Winchester also serves clients in West Virginia, including Martinsburg, WV.
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