Many workers who are out of work due to a workplace injury may consider taking on another job. Employees may consider this because they have concerns their old job won’t be waiting for them when they return. The time off from work due to injuries may get workers thinking about changing careers or choosing the same type of work – but in a close geographical location, a job with more pay, a job with more opportunities, or just because a different job may be more satisfying.
As I write this, the current job market is booming. There are more jobs available than there are workers to fill them. Wages are rising.
This makes things especially difficult because if you are off and receiving your workers compensation weekly benefits, those are 1/3rd less than your typical salary. So you are already having to make do with less.
The best course of action with this type of decision is to review your case with an experienced North Carolina or Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer – depending on where you live. There are numerous questions to consider such as:
Will your former employer’s insurance company still be required to pay your medical bills – whether you’re still trying to improve your health or whether your health has stabilized and you just want to make sure it doesn’t get worse?
Generally, the employer’s insurance company would be required to continue to pay your medical bills as long as you have an accepted claim in North Carolina or are under an Award for benefits in Virginia. If you’re receiving care or you need to continue treatments with a therapist to ensure your condition doesn’t get worse, that should not stop. Whether you shift jobs or not, your right to seek medical benefits to improve your health will stop if you’re injuries fully heal.
Will your former employer’s insurance company still be required to pay part of your lost wages if the new job doesn’t work out or if the job pays less than your prior job did but is a better job for other reasons – such as closeness to home.
Part of the answer depends on how much the new job pays and also why you ultimately leave that job or are let go. If the new job pays more than your prior job, then the employer’s insurance company will have the right to terminate your temporary wage benefits. If the new job pays less than your old job, then an adjustment will likely be made to help make up 2/3rds of the difference. That is called temporary partial disability.
For example, if your old job which paid $900 a week is no longer available and your new job pays $750 a week, you’d be losing $150. If you are under an existing Award or accepted claim, the employer’s insurance company would be required to pay 2/3rds of the $150 shortfall, or $100/per week.
If you have reached MMI, your right to benefits depends on whether you have a qualifying permanent disability in your injured body part(s). Many workers who lose a hand, their vision, or suffer other serious injuries are entitled to permanent partial disability benefits, even after their return to work. These benefits are statutory benefits that award you a portion of your lost wages (generally 2/3rds) for a specific number of weeks – depending on what type of disability you have and the severity (impairment rating) of the permanent disability.
Some workers can work with a permanent disability – but often at a job that pays less than their old job. So, if you switch jobs before your case closes, you may be able to continue to claim 2/3rds of the difference between what your old job paid and what your new job is paying. Using the example (2/3 of $150 = $100 – for up to 500 weeks. Note though, that in no case, even with the added impairment rating weeks, can the total exceed 500 weeks, unless you were to meet the conditions for permanent and total disability. That would be highly unlikely if you’ve returned to work.
If this all sounds confusing, then again, the best course of action is to call our skilled worker’s compensation lawyer.
Can you perform the new job?
Before you accept any new job offer, you will need to review with your physician whether you are physically able to do the new job. Get a detailed, physical job description. There’s no point in accepting a new job and risking your benefits – if you can’t do the new job.
What other considerations help determine whether an employee should switch jobs while a workers’ compensation case is still open?
There are a few factors to consider. As a general rule, you should NEVER quit your job while you have a pending worker’s compensation case. The consequences could basically spell the end of any significant settlement value for your claim. If you do change jobs, your former employer may (or may not) try to contest your right to benefits and there are many considerations to decide if it is something you should consider. A lot depends on whether your current work restrictions continue to prevent you from returning to your pre-injury employment.
- You left because the employer didn’t have work for you when it was time to return to work;
- You left on unfriendly terms or were fired for cause;
- You were let go because the employer was no longer able to accommodate the work restrictions from the injuries;
- You are able to do the same work tasks as you did before the injury, i.e. you’ve been released to full duty;
- Whether you are able to continue to subsist on the temporary total disability benefits of 2/3rds of your average weekly wage. For many, this is the deciding factor to take a job that pays more, even if it means reducing the value of the workers compensation claim.
- Many other factors depending on the type of work you do and other considerations.
Generally, once you start your new job, there is no do-over. If the job is within your restrictions and you are unable to do it, you will not get to return to your compensation checks, unless your work restrictions change.
What happens if your new job is in a different state?
Generally, employees must choose medical providers who are on a list that is preapproved by your employers. Employers normally select doctors, specialists, and therapists who work in the same state. Moving to a new state likely means that you won’t be able to treat with these providers due to the long distances. If your claim is under Virginia Workers Compensation law, this will require asking for another panel or panels of doctors in the state to which you are moving.
Our skilled workers’ compensation will explain if you need to seek approval to switch healthcare providers if you move to a different state – and what other options might be available. There may be practical issues involved with having your new medical bill providers paid through the North Carolina or Virginia state workers’ compensation offices. Sometimes it can be difficult to find providers willing to accept the workers compensation insurance.
At Joe Miller Law Ltd., we have been fighting for workers who are injured at work or become ill at work – for more than 30 years. We’ve helped thousands of employees obtain just workers’ compensation recoveries. To review your right to start a different job or any other workers’ compensation claim – starting with your right to benefits, call attorney Joe Miller, Esq., at 888-667-8295. or use my online contact form. to make an appointment.
Employees in North Carolina and Virginia who have a workers’ compensation claim can contact us through our New Electronic Case Review. This link is being used by us during the pandemic so that workers can communicate with us remotely.