By James G. Clymer
One of the most frequent questions that a Workers Compensation Attorney Columbus Ohio may hear is, “Can I receive workers’ comp benefits if I have already returned to my job?”
The best answer is, “Yes, but …”
How the answer finishesdepends entirely on the facts of the client’s case. One reason any person pursuing a workers’ comp claim should at least sit down with an attorney for a consultation is that workers’ compensation benefits come in many forms. When a person who gets injured or made sick on the job receives benefits, as well as in what amounts, vary from person to person. Families whose loved died at work should also seek guidance.
Failing to take case-by-case variations into account when filing a claim, submitting an application, and, when necessary, appealing a denial of benefits can result in a truly deserving worker or family receiving no workers’ comp benefits.
When Individuals Who Work Can Collect Workers’ Comp Payments
There are three common scenarios in which people can return to their jobs and continue receiving workers’ comp payments: case delays, involuntary change of occupation, and wage loss due to disability.
This is very close to the norm because the workers’ comp claim process is intended to cover periods of temporary disability and the process can take months to play out. Consequently, a large number of workers’ comp beneficiaries do not receive compensation for medical costs and replacement wages until they are already back on the job. The payments will only represent the time they spent receiving treatment and going through rehab, though, and the payments will stop once the workers’ compensation program has paid out the total amount of benefits it approved.
For instance, a person who loses a finger in a workplace accident may need three months off for surgery and occupational therapy. Processing that injured employee’s claim could take four months. The employee will not receive any benefits until after going back to work. In this case, the workers’ comp program will likely offer a lump sum settlement that includes medical costs, a “scheduled loss” payment of a few thousand dollars for the amputation, and replacement wages for the three months of missed paychecks.
Change of Occupation
Sometimes, a person who gets injured or falls ill on the job is cleared to return to work but not cleared to go back to the job he or she held before the accident. When this happens, the workers’ compensation program can approve a change of occupation benefit to pay for retraining or provide temporary wage support. Qualifying for this type of workers’ comp benefit requires submitting a great deal of paperwork and either taking a new job or completing a career course.
Wage Loss Due to Disability
People forced to take new jobs after returning from a temporary disability often settle for reduced hourly wages or a lower salary. In such situations, the workers’ compensation program can award wage loss or living maintenance wage loss benefits. Recipients of these types of benefits must be employed and have documentation showing that their new rates of pay leave them unable to live the lifestyle they maintained before their accident. Partnering with an experienced and knowledgeable workers’ comp lawyer will help an employee gather, organize, and present the required proof.
A Note on Permanent Disability
Getting declared permanently and totally disabled (PTD) should qualify a person for workers’ comp benefits and Social Security Disability Insurance payments or an equivalent level of support from a pension plan. However, returning to work after receiving that designation will immediately stop workers’ comp benefits and may expose a person to criminal charges.
Here is what the Ohio Workers’ Compensation program writes on its website: “Should an injured worker who has been declared PTD return to work, the injured worker must notify [the program] immediately. Benefit payments would cease at that time. Continued receipt of PTD benefits after a return to work is illegal in most cases and could subject the injured worker to prosecution for workers’ compensation fraud.”
Gregory R. Mitchell is a Cleveland workers compensation attorney and partner at Agee Clymer Mitchell & Portman represents clients in workers comp appeal hearings.