Workplace injuries are an unfortunate part of working in any career field. The purpose of workers’ compensation insurance is to support injured workers while providing medical treatment financially and cover medical costs until they have recovered and are ready to re-enter the workforce.
Some employees choose to look for work once their recovery begins and are curious how their worker’s compensation benefits will be affected.
Getting a New Job While on Workers’ Comp
You can get a new job without losing your worker’s compensation benefits if your employer has restricted what you can do in your current position or if your employer does not have another suitable position to offer you. Unfortunately, some workplace injuries may prevent the employee from continuing the job they previously had, causing them to seek a new position elsewhere that can accommodate their injuries. Oftentimes this could cause a reduction in income.
In any case, when faced with an on-the-job injury that puts you out of work, you should continue to receive all of your workers’ compensation benefits, including medical treatment, medication, and rehabilitation as well as receive lost wage benefits.
To continue receiving benefits, you are legally required to provide your employer with notification of your intention to leave and wait before beginning the new job. However, you are also obligated to report your new position to the South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Commission (SCWCC) prior to starting any training or on-site work. Otherwise, you could face accusations of worker’s compensation fraud.
Timing Is of the Utmost Importance
When considering a return to work or seeking a new job, the timing of this decision is important. Returning to work, even light duty, prior to the finalization of your worker’s compensation settlement could jeopardize your right to recover compensation. If you decide to quit while negotiations are still occurring, you could potentially be liable for your damages.
Beginning a new job could allow the insurance company to claim that you are well enough to work and no longer in need of benefits. Keep in mind that if your current employer offers you light-duty work once you have recovered, and you decide not to accept their offer, it is a definite possibility the insurance company will deny your workers comp application.
If you make the decision to leave your current position and start a new job where you will make more money after suffering an injury at work, but your worker’s compensation claim has not been settled, there’s a high likelihood that you will be denied any workers’ comp benefits.
Things to Consider When Deciding to Start a New Job After Receiving Workers’ Compensation in South Carolina
Settlements can come in the form of a “clincher” agreement. This will ensure you receive total compensation through a settlement agreement to avoid having to cover any future medical expenses you may incur due to your injuries. You will have the freedom to pursue other job opportunities once the details of your work comp settlement are decided on and finalized. Additionally, if you settle your workers’ compensation claim, the following may apply:
- If you gain employment through a new employer, your former employer may attempt to discontinue your lost wage benefits, arguing that they no longer have an obligation to pay you as you have re-entered the workforce.
- If you accept a position that is considered light duty or less intense than your previous job and that pays less than your former position, you may be able to continue receiving benefits.
- If you accept a position making more income than your previous position, your former employer may try to seek reimbursement of benefits paid out for lost wages, for any time that you have been earning income at your new job.
What Happens After You Reach Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI)?
Once your treating physician reviews your records and conducts their exam, they will ascertain whether you have fully healed from your workplace injury, and you are considered to have reached MMI. At this point, your doctor will report their findings to your employer’s workers comp insurance provider outlining your ability to continue work, any permanent damage from your injuries, and your long-term expenses and medical prognosis.
At the point of your maximum medical improvement, you can better gauge your working ability and the decision of transitioning to a new position or continuing with your current job.
Whether you are considering fewer hours or a position that is less physically taxing with your current employer or seeking out new employment, it is best to speak with a personal injury lawyer to determine which situation may be best to ensure you continue to receive the benefits you are entitled to.
Will I Have to Fight to Continue Receiving Work Comp Benefits While I Look for a Better Job in SC?
When looking for, or once you have begun a new job, there are several steps you can take to protect your worker’s comp benefits. Be sure you save any communication and offers that may be given to you for a reduced workload or fewer hours after suffering a work-related injury. Your employer must compensate you in full for the number of hours you work if they are unable to offer you less physically challenging work or fewer hours.
On occasion, an employer may backtrack and try to claim that you refused their offer for a lighter workload in order to get your workers comp benefits terminated. You will also want to keep a detailed record of the medical treatment you receive. If your employer tried to cut off your workers’ comp benefits, these records will be important evidence of the continued need for your injuries.
Lastly, before deciding to quit your current position, be sure you have a new job offer in hand. It is important to understand how your prior workplace injury benefits will be impacted by the job you take.
Get Help from a South Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorney Today
Navigating your way through obtaining a new job after a workplace injury can be a difficult and confusing process. You want to be sure you receive the most benefits throughout your recovery while still being able to work. Hiring a worker’s compensation lawyer can greatly increase the outcome of your case and help guide you in making the best decisions for your situation.
The lawyers at Shelley Leek Law Firm are ready to defend your case. We offer free, no-obligation consultations to work injury victims across South Carolina. Take advantage of this opportunity by filling out our online contact form or by calling our office today.