Among the many benefits available to an injured worker in Minnesota, retraining can be one of the most beneficial and life-changing. If you have been injured and live in northern Minnesota, you may quickly find that your employment options are extremely limited after you recover from your injury. This may be especially true if you are unable to return to your previous job and have limited employment skills.
Let’s say you graduated from high school on the Iron Range in the 1980’s and went right to work at one of the mines. Maybe you went through a millwright program and learned some valuable skills, which allowed you to earn a good living for you and your family. An unexpected back, neck or shoulder injury resulting in surgery or extended disability could change all of that in a hurry. Even with a decent recovery from your injuries, you might be left with permanent physical restrictions or limitations which prevent you from returning to work as a millwright (or an electrician, shovel operator, production truck driver, lineman……..you get the picture.)
Now what? If you can’t return to the type of work you were doing before your injury, and if you don’t have any other skills or training to help you earn a decent living, what options do you have? Retraining might be one of the options available.
What is meant by “retraining” in a work comp claim?
Retraining can include any number of educational opportunities, from a short course at your local vocational school to full studies at a college. There is no standard definition of retraining. If you are eligible for retraining as a result of your workers’ compensation claim, the insurance company is responsible to pay the costs of your education, including books, tuition, travel expenses, etc. In addition, you may also be eligible for continuing wage loss benefits during the course of your retraining program.
Who is eligible for retraining?
In order to be eligible, you must first establish that you have physical restrictions or limitations from your work injury which prevent you from returning to your pre-injury job. You also need to prove that retraining is necessary in order for you to return to a job with earnings close to your preinjury wage. The process can be long and complicated and the insurance company will usually fight retraining claims because they can be very expensive. Your best allies in a retraining claim will be an experienced attorney, a supportive doctor and a trustworthy Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant (QRC). (What’s a QRC? Read more here)
If your attorney and the QRC are able to put together a solid retraining plan, the insurance company can either approve or deny the plan. If the plan is denied, a hearing will be scheduled and the matter will be decided by a workers’ compensation judge, just like any other disputed issue in a work comp claim.
What would I have to prove at a hearing to win a retraining claim?
As a general rule, the work comp judge will decide a disputed retraining claim based upon what are called the Poole factors. The Poole factors come from the case of Poole vs. Farmstead Foods, Inc, which was decided by the Minnesota Workers’ Compensation Court of Appeals in 1989. In that case, the Court of Appeals identified several factors to be considered in determining whether a retraining plan should be approved. Some of those factors are:
1. The reasonableness of retraining as compared to other job placement activities;
2. Whether the injured worker has the ability and interest to succeed in the proposed retraining plan or schooling;
3. Whether retraining is reasonably likely to result in employment;
4. Whether retraining is likely to get the injured worker back to, or close to, earning his or her pre-injury wage.
Retraining isn’t the first option that we look at in a typical workers’ compensation claim, but it also isn’t only a last resort. The facts of every work comp case are different and varied. If you feel that retraining might be an inappropriate option in your case, some of the factors that determine whether retraining is even a consideration might include:
- your age;
- your average weekly wage on the date of injury;
- the nature and extent of your injury;
- your ongoing physical restrictions and limitations;
- your previous education, employment and training;
- the quality and extent of your job search activities;
- the availability of jobs in your geographic area;
- your willingness to relocate, if necessary;
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Don’t be afraid to contact us, anytime, if we can answer some questions for you. It won’t cost you anything and we will give you our honest assessment about whether you need a lawyer to represent you. Remember, you are dealing with an insurance company which handles hundreds or thousands of claims every day. They have experienced claims adjusters and attorneys managing their files. Even if you don’t need a lawyer at the moment, a little information about how the work comp system works can make a big difference for you in your dealings with the insurance company.
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