Easing Back Into Work After An Injury

After a hurt worker has had time to heal from an injury, they might be asked to return to work. However, the worker might not be ready to do so at full speed. Read on and find out how workers can ease their way back into their previous positions with light-duty work orders.

What to Know About Light Duty Work

Light duty describes several ways of easing back into a job. In some cases, light duty is about the number of hours worked. If the employee was previously full-time, for instance, light duty might be working only four hours a day rather than eight. It can also be about work duties. If the worker previously had a very physically intensive job, they might be assigned to perform desk work for a time. Every situation is different, and a light duty order will vary depending on the worker's previous job, experience, education, age, and, most of all, physical limitations.

How are Light Duty Orders Determined?

At first, workers are provided with medical care and a disability wage once their workers' compensation insurance claim is approved. The doctor overseeing the workers' medical care determines when and if the worker can return to work, although the insurer has input as well. For example, if the worker's doctor lets the insurer know that the worker may be fit to return to work for light duty, a special medical examination may be ordered.

This exam, known as the independent medical examination, involves an exam by a new doctor. The doctor assigned to perform the exam works for the workers' compensation insurance company.  They are tasked with determining how soon the worker can return to work, whether light duty or full duty or not at all. The exam consists of the doctor examining the worker and asking them questions about the injury, their treatment, and the status of the injury. The results of the exam can lead to several outcomes:

  • The worker is ordered to return to their previous position.
  • The worker is ordered to return to work on light duty status for a certain time.
  • The worker is not ready to work yet, and their disability pay is extended.
  • The worker won't be ready to work again due to permanent injuries.

If you disagree with any workers' compensation decision, you may have rights to an appeal or second opinion. Speak to a workers' compensation lawyer for help in understanding and asserting your workers' compensation rights.

For more information, contact a workers compensation attorney near you.