One of our clients’ biggest fears is that they’ll be forced to return to work before they’re healed. If you go back to work before you’re physically ready, you can aggravate your injuries. The last thing anyone wants is you going back out of work for another month or longer. This is why your Miami workers comp lawyer should work with your employer to agree on a fair time for you to return to work. Unfortunately, it doesn’t work that way.
In Florida, as in most every other state, you don’t get to decide when to return to work. Technically, neither does your employer. You are expected to return to work once your workers compensation doctor determines that you’ve reached something called “maximum medical improvement.” We’ll explain what this means a bit later in this article. While your workers compensation attorney in Miami can always get a second opinion, it may not help. If your employer is dead set on forcing you to come back to work, they can do it.
Here, we’ll discuss who determines when you’re ready to return to work. We will also describe what your options are if your employer insists you return. Finally, we’ll explain what options you have available to you if your employer fires you for not returning. If you still have questions about your own workers compensation case, give us a call. We offer all new clients a free, initial consultation.
Your Worker’s Compensation Doctor Will Determine When You Should Return to Work
Like it or not, your state-approved workers compensation doctor is the one who determines when you’re ready to return to work. All along, this is the doctor who will be treating you. They will run the necessary diagnostic tests throughout the course of your treatment to see how you’re coming along. They’ll also monitor whatever treatment and therapy you undergo.
Once your doctor determines that you’ve met maximum medical improvement, they will let your employer and their insurance carrier know. Within a matter of days, your Miami workers comp lawyer will receive a letter indicating that you’re expected to return to work by a certain date. This letter will also confirm that your benefits will terminate and that no additional medical care will be covered.
If you’re shocked by your doctor’s assessment, let your attorney know. You should have an idea of when you’re approaching this milestone. If you feel that you need additional care before you return to work and your doctor disagrees, your workers compensation attorney in Miami can get a second opinion.
Your Miami Workers Comp Lawyer Can Get a Second Opinion
Obviously, the doctor who treated you for your work-related injuries was chosen by your employer. Every state has its own list of certified and approved workers compensation doctors. You can only be treated by one of these physicians. However, if your Miami workers comp lawyer doesn’t agree that you’re ready to return to work, they can request a second opinion.
As you can imagine, there are two types of workers compensation doctors. There are those who tend to favor employers and there are those who tend to favor employees. Your attorney will try to find a doctor who is more likely to side with you. This means that, while your independent evaluation may confirm your opinion, that doesn’t mean your employer will consider it as meaningful.
Your Workers Compensation Attorney in Miami Can Appeal the Decision
If your employer or their insurance company refuse to give you the extra time to heal, your Miami workers comp lawyer can appeal the decision. The problem is that, during the time the appeal is being processed, you’re in limbo. If you don’t return to work, you could be fired. If you go back, you could reinjure yourself. Neither of these are viable options.
The other problem is that you aren’t going to receive benefits while you’re waiting on your appeal. Most people can’t afford to do this. You’ve already gone months without receiving a full paycheck. You haven’t had the chance to build up savings. Your workers compensation attorney in Miami will do their best to resolve things as quickly as possible.
What if Your Employer Threatens to Fire You?
If your employer demands that you return to work, you have options. You can go back under protest, letting them know that you are physically less than 100%. Or you can ask to return to a light-duty position. The third option is to refuse to return to work and suffer the consequences.
Some of our clients worry that this could get them fired. And they’re right to worry. Florida, like almost every other state in the country, is an at-will employment state. This means you can be fired for any reason (or no reason at all.) Just because you have an open or pending workers compensation appeal, that doesn’t mean you can’t be fired. Sadly, since you do work in an at-will state, you won’t be able to sue for wrongful termination either. People assume you can do this but it is very difficult to win these types of cases. Your best hope is that you win your appeal and are granted the extra time to heal from your injuries. If this happens, you’ll receive retroactive benefits for the time you missed.
You May Be Able to Collect Unemployment Benefits
If you are fired, you always have the option of filing for unemployment. Your Miami workers comp lawyer can help you do this. Since you were technically fired, you should qualify. Your employer may fight your claim. However, when unemployment learns the circumstances under which you were fired, they will likely approve your claim.
The Best Thing to Do is Hire a Seasoned Miami Workers Comp Lawyer
Finding out that you’re supposed to return to work before you’re ready can be scary. If you don’t have a Miami workers comp lawyer, you’ll be on your own when it comes to fighting this decision. There’s very little you can do to convince your employer that you need more time. Once the state-approved workers compensation doctor determines that you’ve reached maximum medical improvement, there’s nothing much left to do.
This is why we suggest you call and speak with one of our workers compensation attorneys in Miami sooner rather than later. Since we do offer a free consultation, you have nothing to lose.