No, you do not have to go back to work after your workers’ compensation benefits end. No law in Georgia requires you to return to work at the conclusion of your benefits period. It is up to you whether or not to continue working based on your physical fitness, financial status, personal goals and the extent of your injuries. You can choose to go back to work, find a different job, or remain unemployed and seek disability benefits from another source.
Weigh Your Options
For many people who are injured on the job in Georgia, the goal is to eventually return to work. They receive medical care, physical therapy, occupational therapy and rehabilitation to be able to go back to the jobs they were performing before their injuries. A career can give a worker’s life purpose and meaning, as well as important financial benefits to support a family. Although workers’ compensation can pay the bills while you are too injured to go to work, it does not replace the income and employment benefits of working full time.
If, however, you suffered an injury or illness that gives you a permanent disability, returning to work might not be a viable option. You may be unable to physically or cognitively perform the necessary tasks of your old job. If you can return to work at a lesser capacity, you may be facing smaller paychecks. If you cannot return to work at all, you can lose a lifetime of wages. You may be eligible for financial assistance from a government program that enables you to quit your job in both cases, however, such as the Social Security system.
Even if you heal enough to be able to go back to work, you may choose not to if you were already close to your target retirement age. If you were already going to retire within the next few years, for example, it may not make sense to train and push yourself to go back to work after a serious injury or illness. Be sure you fully understand your retirement benefits and how a pension plan works, however, if you decided to retire early after an accident.
Make a Plan
Whether you qualify for permanent or temporary disability payment through a workers’ compensation claim in Georgia, workers’ comp will eventually run out. This type of benefit does not last forever. In general, an injured worker can receive benefits for up to 400 weeks. Make a plan for when your workers’ compensation benefits expire. If this plan involves returning to work, stay in touch with your employer during your medical journey.
In Georgia, the federal Family Medical Leave Act allows you to take up to 12 weeks of unpaid leave per year without the risk of losing your job. To qualify for these benefits, you must have been working for the employer for at least one year and worked at least 1,250 hours in that time. If you qualify for medical leave, your job should still be available to you once you are ready to return to work after an injury. Communicate often with your employer or supervisor to keep them updated on how you’re doing and when you plan on coming back. This can allow your place of work to prepare for your return.
Don’t Rush Your Recovery
Do not let your employer pressure you into coming back to work before you are ready. Even if your workers’ compensation benefits run out, you may be eligible for other forms of financial assistance to help you and your family keep paying for your expenses while you recover. If someone else caused your workplace accident, for example, such as your employer or a coworker, you may qualify for lost wage replacement for the entirety of your recovery through a personal injury lawsuit.
Take your time recovering, healing and reaching your point of maximum medical improvement before returning to work. Otherwise, you could put your health and safety at risk by returning too soon. For more information about going back to work after a workers’ compensation claim, contact an attorney from Hilley & Frieder.