If you have sustained a significant injury at work, it is likely that you will be given work restrictions, sometimes called light duty work. These restrictions may be temporary at first, but could result in permanent work restrictions. The term "light duty" refers to limitations on the type of work you can do which are ordered by a doctor. Usually, there will be specific limitations put in place such as not lifting anything more than 20 pounds or performing desk or other sedentary work only. Light duty is just the general term used when an injured worker is allowed to return to work with some restrictions.
What if you disagree with the light duty restrictions imposed by the employer-chosen doctor?
You should describe your job responsibilities to the doctor, provide the doctor with the job description if you have it, and express your concerns about doing the job and potential risks for re-injury. Sometimes this will be enough information for the doctor to change your restrictions.
What if the doctor still stands by the work release provided?
Then it is usually best to go back and try to do the job. If you are not physically able to perform the job duties, then you should promptly notify your employer and contact the doctor's office about the problems you are having. If your work restrictions are not modified and you cannot do the job, then you should consider contacting your personal physician for an appointment to see if he/she will modify your restrictions or take you off work completely. However, keep in mind that if your own physician takes you off work or gives you additional restrictions that your employer cannot accommodate, chances are you will not receive a weekly workers' compensation check, but may be able to use your sick pay, vacation time, and/or short term disability policy. You may also be able to petition the Workers' Compensation Commissioner for an Independent Medical Examination (IME), which your employer would be required to pay for.
What should you do if the company doctor tells you to return to work with restrictions?
It is very important that you contact your employer often in person, by telephone, in writing, and/or through email and notify them that you have been released to return to work on light duty status. You should tell your employer you are ready, willing, and able to work within these restrictions. Failing to do so may result in you losing your job, not receiving weekly workers' compensation benefits and being denied unemployment benefits. If you return to work and cannot physically do your job, then you should immediately tell your supervisor, foreperson or other appropriate person at work and also promptly call the doctor's office to notify them and ask for a return appointment.
What if you still have questions about what to do in your workers' compensation case?
If you or someone you know has been injured at work, Walker, Billingsley & Bair is here to help answer your questions. Iowa workers' compensation attorney Corey Walker offers a book about Iowa work injuries at no cost, risk or obligation. The book is titled “Iowa Workers’ Compensation - An Insider’s Guide to Work Injuries” and includes 7 Deadly Mistakes to Avoid if You are Hurt at Work. To order your copy go to www.IowaWorkInjury.com or Call Now 1-800-707-2552 (ext. 811) (24 Hour Recorded Message). Corey offers his Iowa work injury book at no cost because he has seen too many hard-working Iowans from Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Ft. Dodge, Newton, Ankeny, and throughout the state of Iowa who were hurt at work make mistakes which cost them thousands of dollars. Iowans hurt at work are beginning to realize that the insurance company is not there to help them and that they should learn about Iowa's workers' compensation laws. Finally, there is a book about Iowa work injuries that you can review in the comfort of your own home. For immediate assistance call 515-440-2852 and ask for Corey or Erik.