The workers’ compensation doctor has released me to light duty work, but I am still in a lot of pain, and I am not sure I will be able to do even that job. Am I still entitled to my workers’ compensation checks if I refuse to go to work?
As set forth in the previous answer, the answer to this question really depends on several things. Has the doctor told you that you have reached “maximum medical improvement” (MMI)? If not, and the doctor has been shown the job requirements for this “light duty” job, and has approved the job, and you’re still in the process of treating for your injuries, that would likely be considered an unjustified refusal of employment, and your failure to show up at work would likely have the effect of cutting off your benefits immediately.
But–if the doctor has placed you under restrictions, and has not been shown a job description, and your employer is trying to get you to come back to some kind of modified work, that is not allowed. If you are under work restrictions, you have the right to have your doctor review the job requirements proposed by your employer before being required to come to work in a modified job. If he or she will not sign off on that job, you do not have to go.
Once the doctor reviews those requirements, however, and approves them, your failure to show up at that job would likely cut off your benefits. Under those circumstances, we recommend that you try to go to work and give it a good effort. If you are unable to do your job, you should make an appointment with the doctor, and when you return to him or her, explain exactly what was hurting you and rendered you unable to perform your job. If the doctor remains unsympathetic, it may then be time to request a change of treating physicians from the Commission. We can assist you with that process.
If, on the other hand, you have been released from the doctor’s care and declared to be at maximum medical improvement (MMI) with permanent restrictions, you would be entitled to an Independent Medical Examination (IME) for a second opinion to determine if your current restrictions are appropriate, if the job offered to you is appropriate, and if you have actually reached maximum medical improvement. In the meantime, while engaging in the process to obtain that examination, you should be aware that the employer will likely still claim that you have unjustifiably refused employment, and may seek to cut off your benefits.
However, if the Independent Medical Exam (IME) Physician gives you more physical restrictions that would preclude you from performing the job offered, you would have a decent chance of winning on a Motion to have those benefits reinstated at a later time. In the meantime, however, your employer may seek to cut off your benefits via something called a Form 24, and you would still be under an obligation to look for some type of work within the restrictions given by the Independent Medical Physician.
Of course, if the Independent Medical Physician is of the opinion that you are totally disabled, and the Commission sees fit to agree with that opinion, you would be entitled to benefits during the time that you were so disabled, as long as you followed the doctor’s medical advice for treatment.
Obviously, each case must be evaluated on its own merit.