When an injured worker is out of work receiving temporary total disability payments insurance carriers will often pester the treating physician into returning the injured worker back to light duty work. If that happens, the employer has a choice. They can either;
(1) refuse to provide light duty and continue paying weekly benefits, or;
(2) provide light duty and try to deny further weekly benefits.
It is almost always to the employee’s advantage to attempt to return to work within his restrictions. If the employee successfully returns to work, he earns more money than he would on workers’ compensation benefits and is able to maintain employment benefits such as health insurance while his workers’ compensation claim continues. If the employee returns to work on light duty but earns less money because of his restrictions, then he is entitled to his wages earned plus two-thirds of the difference from the workers compensation insurance as a temporary partial benefit. Finally, if the employee tries to return to work but is unsuccessful, he has a strong argument for continued temporary total benefits because he has made a good faith effort to try to work. The physician may well write him back out of work but, if not, and the case is tried over this issue a Commissioner is much more likely to order continued benefits to the worker that has tried his best to return to work.
We never want to see a client put in a dangerous situation or risk re-injury. However, if released to light duty or work with restrictions, the advice will almost always be to attempt the work. If unsuccessful after trying to return to work, by all means let the employer know that despite your best efforts you could not do the work and return to your doctor to let him know as well.
If you have been injured on the job or suffer from a work-related illness, we can help. Contact the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Chappell, Chappell and Newman. Our firm has more than 30 years of experience fighting for workers in South Carolina.