If a doctor releases an injured worker, workers’ comp may stop paying. This depends on the circumstances surrounding the release, such as whether the worker was released to resume normal job duties, is allowed to return to light duty work, or the condition has gotten to a point where nothing more can be done to improve it.
A Doctor Release Affects Workers’ Comp Benefits: Designated as Healed
In many of these cases, the employee’s injury or illness eventually heals. For instance, a delivery truck driver is involved in a traffic accident that results in a broken arm and leg. After a few months away from work, both fractures heal and the driver can get back to his/her regular job duties. Payments would then stop.
Doctor Release and Workman’s Comp Benefits: Put on Job Restriction
Another situation that can arise is when the employee is released back to work but with restrictions. Job tasks might be modified or the employee might work fewer hours. If still being treated for his/her condition, payments should still continue.
However, payments could potentially stop if the employee refuses to adhere to the work restrictions. Let’s say the doctor tells the employee he/she can perform light duty assignments but the employee doesn’t want to go back. It could impact the ability to continue receiving benefits.
If the worker temporarily receives a lower-paying wage because of the injury, the temporary total disability (TTD) benefits the worker was receiving may transition to temporary partial disability (TPD) benefits. Instead of 80 percent of average spendable earnings that TTD pays, TPD pays two-thirds the difference between the lower-paying wages and wages before the injury.
Release and Workers’ Compensation: Condition Not Expected to Improve
A doctor might also find that the employee reached maximum medical improvement (MMI). An example would be a spinal cord injury. At some point it’s determined that nothing more can be done to improve the person’s condition. However, it doesn’t necessarily mean that ongoing treatment won’t be required.
Any benefits that might be available depend on the nature of the injury. For instance, if someone has a permanent impairment, healing period benefits could be available during his/her recovery. But once a doctor determines there won’t be significant improvement from the condition and releases the person, those benefits would end and permanent disability benefits may begin.
An employee might be released to work even though his/her injury has resulted in permanent disability. In that case, permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits might be available. Or if the doctor determines the individual can never return to work, then permanent total disability (PPD) benefits might apply.
When It Might Be Necessary to Seek Advice from an Attorney
When payments for workers’ comp stop, it’s important to understand if they stopped for the right reasons. It could be that they prematurely ended and the employer is attempting to deny benefits that an employee has every right to receive. Or it could be that the types of benefits change, depending on the employee’s injury status.
One of the best ways to protect a workers’ compensation claim is to seek legal counsel. An attorney can explain eligibility for benefits and how the severity and extent of the injuries may affect benefits. To lean more, contact an attorney at Walker, Billingsley & Bair in Des Moines: 888-435-9886 or contact us online.