This is a question or concern I frequently hear from clients after they have been injured at work. Another way of asking the same question would be:
Does my work comp claim end if I no longer work for the employer where I was injured?
Let’s face it, if you have been injured at work and find yourself in the work comp system, you probably have a lot of questions which may be causing you a lot of stress. It’s bad enough if you are losing wages and incurring medical expenses while you recover from your injury. It’s one more thing to worry about if you may not be returning to your job.
In a perfect world, you would make a quick and complete recovery from the work injury and return to your previous job at full wage. End of story, end of worries. Unfortunately, the road to recovery after a work injury is not always that smooth or uneventful. For any number of reasons, you may not be able to return to work for the same employer after your injury.
These are some possible scenarios where you can’t return to work with the date of injury employer:
1. Your employer cannot accommodate your work restrictions.
If you have physical restrictions and limitations as a result of the work injury which prevent you from doing your previous job, the employer may be unable, or unwilling, to provide light duty or restricted work. For example, if you suffered a back or shoulder injury which now prevents you from doing physically demanding labor, bending, lifting, etc., there may simply be no jobs that you can do for the employer. if your employer no longer has a job for you, you might be eligible for vocational rehabilitation assistance in the form of job search or even retraining, along with wage loss benefits under Minnesota’s work comp laws. (For a more detailed discussion on the types of benefits available, please see this previous blog post: How long do work comp wage loss benefits last in Minnesota? )
2. Your employer is no longer in business.
This is probably a rare occurrence but not unheard of or impossible. Businesses close for many reasons and if your employer is no longer in business when you have recovered from your injury, you will need to look for a new job. The good news is that you are still covered for work comp benefits by the same insurance company which has been paying your benefits since the injury. These benefits may again include vocational rehabilitation assistance and wage loss benefits.
3. You have been “laid off”.
Some employers may want nothing to do with you after a work injury. They consider you to be a liability or a source of trouble or expense they don’t want to deal with. This type of employer might decide to lay you off for an indefinite period of time without actually terminating your employment. This means that you are out of work because of your injury, but the employer will argue that you are out of work for economic reasons, particularly if a number of your coworkers have also been laid off.
Again, you are still eligible for work comp benefits in this situation but you may be forced to hire an attorney and fight with the insurance company for benefits. In this situation,it’s also important that you continue to have some work restrictions related to your work injury in order to be eligible for benefits. (This article explains the issue of restrictions in more detail: Are work restrictions important in a Minnesota work comp case? )
4. Your employer will not follow your restrictions.
In this situation, you return to work with restrictions from your doctor and the employer promises that they have light duty or modified work for you within those restrictions. Unfortunately, after returning to work, you find out that the employer is expecting you to perform job duties that exceed your restrictions and may be aggravating or worsening your injury. This puts you in a difficult situation where you may be forced to quit or otherwise be labeled as a “troublemaker” by standing up for your rights. The employer knows that you probably need the the job and don’t want to create problems, so the employer uses that as pressure or leverage.
If you are forced to quit under these circumstances, benefits are still available but it’s another situation where you will likely have to fight for them.
5. You find a better job with a different employer after your injury.
This is really a “win/win” situation, especially if you find a job with higher pay which you can perform within your restrictions. At that point, your work comp wage loss benefits would obviously end because you are no longer losing wages. However, the medical coverage for your injury stays with you and remains open. In other words, it doesn’t matter who you are working for after the injury, the original work comp insurance company is still responsible for your medical expenses. The work comp benefits follow you wherever you go and are not tied to the original employer.
The insurance company always has the right to fight with you about whether a medical bill or recommended treatment is reasonable, necessary and related to the work injury. However, you don’t lose your work comp medical coverage by going to work for a different employer. (For a more detailed discussion of Minnesota work comp medical benefits issues, check out this previous post: What if work comp refuses to pay for surgery on your Minnesota work injury claim?)
I hope this post provided some helpful information regarding how long work comp benefits last and how they change if you switch to a new employer. At Bradt Law Offices, we have been providing quality legal help to injured workers all across northern Minnesota for more than 34 years. If you have been injured on the job, are involved in a work comp claim or just have a few questions, please call anytime for a free consultation or the a discussion of your rights.
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.
As always, thank you for visiting our blog and please spread the word that we are a good source of work comp information for workers injured in northern Minnesota and anywhere on the Iron Range.