After suffering a work-related injury, you may be recuperating from your injuries and continuing to collect workers’ compensation benefits. However, as you heal from your injuries and reach maximum medical improvement (MMI), you may be wondering what it will be like to return back to work after your injuries. With help from a reputable South Carolina workers’ compensation attorney, you can make sure you have access to the financial support and workers’ comp benefits you need as you reenter the workforce.
Returning to Work on Light Duty After MMI
When your injuries require significant time off of work, your healthcare providers will be working to determine when you have reached maximum medical improvement. This is the point at which your healthcare providers determine you have recovered to the fullest extent expected.
At this point, they may authorize you to return back to work. However, this does not necessarily mean that they will not impose restrictions. Some examples of such restrictions could include:
- How many hours you can work at one time
- How many hours you can walk, sit, or stand
- Whether you can walk up or down the stairs
- Whether you require the use of a ramp
- How many hours you can work in a given week
- The maximum amount of weight you can lift at any time
- How much time you should be provided for breaks or meals
Your employer may offer you a light-duty position if you have restrictions that will prevent you from doing the job you did prior to your injuries. If your employer is willing to make these accommodations, you are required to accept the position; otherwise, your workers’ compensation benefits could be terminated.
However, be aware that you are under no obligation to violate the restrictions placed on you by your healthcare provider. If your employer requires you to lift more than 20 pounds after you have been restricted to let them know more than 10 pounds, your employer will be in violation of your employment restrictions. You will also be able to continue collecting workers’ compensation benefits while you continue working your light-duty job.
Receiving Temporary Total Disability (TTD) Benefits
Total disability benefits are available for as many as five months after you have suffered your injury. However, they do not apply to every work injury with this. You may only be eligible for TTD benefits if:
- Your employer does not offer you a light-duty position.
- You are incapable of doing the light-duty work you were offered, despite your best efforts.
In the event, you have attempted to perform your light-duty responsibilities, but your injuries worsened, or you suffered an additional injury, you may be able to speak with your treating physician to get your impairment rating reevaluated. If you believe your temporary total disability benefits are at risk of being terminated, you can fill out a hearing request form and submit it to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC). Your workers’ compensation attorney can help you prepare for your hearing accordingly and protect your rights to total compensation for your damages
What Happens if You Are Terminated?
South Carolina is an at-will state for appointment purposes. This means as long as it is not for a protected reason, your employer has every right to terminate your employment at any time, for any reason. However, if you are being retaliated against for filing a workers’ compensation claim, you may have grounds for legal action.
Some examples of reasons your employer may be able to legally terminate you after suffering an on-the-job injury include the following:
- Being in violation of company policies or conduct
- Using drugs or alcohol while working
- Being late or having excessive absences on your employment record
- Participating in inappropriate or violent conduct on the job
Do not be surprised if your employer attempts to argue that you come in at one of the previously mentioned acts so they can legally terminate your employment. If you believe this is an excuse and did not commit any of these actions, you may have grounds for a hearing before the SCWCC. Additionally, if employment laws have been violated, you may have grounds for a wrongful termination lawsuit.
Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) and Unemployment Benefits
When you suffer a work permit injury, you might be surprised to learn that in addition to workers’ compensation benefits, you cannot also collect unemployment benefits. This is because you must be able to work to qualify for unemployment. If you are incapable of working, you are not eligible for unemployment benefits.
However, if you have been classified as permanently partially disabled (PPD) and have restrictions that place you at a lower salary rate, you might be able to collect workers’ compensation and unemployment benefits at the same time. However, since this is a rare occurrence, if you believe the situation applies to you, be sure to discuss the details of your case with your attorney so you can be sure you are protecting your eyes and accessing the total amount of benefits you deserve.
Benefits of Having a Workers’ Comp Attorney on Your Side
Although you may be intimidated or overwhelmed at the thought of hiring a lawyer, the benefits of having an attorney working for you are undeniable. Your workers’ compensation attorney can help you as you pursue a hearing with the SCWCC, ensure you have the necessary medical documentation and other supporting evidence, and even help you obtain vocational rehabilitation benefits if your injuries require you to find work in another industry. Furthermore, if a lump sum settlement payout is in your best interests, your attorney can help you associate the terms of your settlement with the insurance company.
Reach Out to a Workers’ Comp Lawyer in South Carolina for Help Today
If you are given the option to return to work on light duty, you must accept it or risk the termination of your workers’ compensation benefits. While you can continue working at a lesser pay rate or earning less than you were prior to your injuries, you may still be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. This does not only include wage replacement but vocational rehabilitation training where necessary.
A dedicated South Carolina workers’ compensation lawyer at Shelly Leeke Law Firm could help you protect your right to these benefits. Schedule your free consultation as soon as today when you fill out our quick contact form or call our office and find out what is next to your case.