I first noticed it when I defended insurance companies in workers compensation claims. There is a myth among many insurance adjusters and members of the media that most injured employees would rather file a workers compensation claim, enter into an agreement form, and collect wage loss benefits for years than return to work.
But based on my experience as a workers compensation attorney representing hundreds of injured employees, this myth is false. Many injured employees would rather negotiate a fair lump sum workers comp settlement and return to work than sit at home and get ongoing benefits.
This article addresses three common reasons that injured employees would rather return to work than remain on workers comp.
1. Workers Compensation Causes a Financial Loss
In Virginia an injured worker receives just a percentage of the income they are used to receiving while on workers compensation. At most you can receive two-thirds of your pre-injury average weekly wage if you’re out on workers comp. Those of you who make $80,000.00 or more each year, however, will receive an even lower percentage of your regular income because Virginia has a maximum compensation rate that limits the weekly benefits you can receive.
This loss of income can have a significant impact on your family, even if your spouse works. Most injured employees, especially if they’re already living paycheck to paycheck, want to get back to work to avoid this loss of income.
I’ve represented many injured workers who have pressured their treating physician to release them to return to work with no restrictions so that they can make their regular wages, even though they have ongoing symptoms. I recommend NOT doing this. If you go back to work but have problems performing your job because of the work injury then your employer may terminate you or lower your pay. And if you have been released to full duty work at your own request then you’ll have a difficult time getting workers compensation wage loss benefits reinstated.
2. Dealing with the Adjuster, Nurse Case Manager, and Litigation is Frustrating
Workers compensation is supposed to be an easy and efficient way to compensate injured employees for their job injuries and occupational diseases. And many injured employees, especially those who have never had a work comp claim before, expect that it will be. They’re often shocked to hear about all the rules and regulations that govern what medical treatment they can receive, what jobs they must look for, and what activities they must participate in.
Many injured employees do not like having to treat with a doctor that the insurance company makes them go to. They’d rather treat with their own doctor or with a doctor who has treated a loved one or friend successfully. And almost all my clients hate having to sit around and wait to see if they’ll receive a paycheck for wage loss benefits after the insurance company completes its investigation. Some would rather avoid the workers comp process altogether because of horror stories they’ve heard.
It’s common for an injured worker to get fed up with how slow the workers comp process is. And adjusters, nurse case managers, and vocational rehabilitation counselors who try to make the worker jump through hoops don’t help. This is another common reason that many injured employees would rather return to work than receive workers comp. claim.
3. Sitting Around the House is Boring
If you’ve worked your entire life but now find yourself out of work completely and sitting at home because of a work injury, you’re probably bored. Most of the clients I’ve represented like working and want to earn an income. Sitting at home for weeks at a time is frustrating and can cause depression and anxiety that slows down the physical recovery. To make matters worse, the injured worker has to watch the activities they try to do because the insurance company may conduct video surveillance to try to cut off benefits.
I’ve seen many injured workers pressure their doctors to release them to light duty or accept settlements that are not as high as they could be because they are ready to leave the house and get back to some type of job. Make sure you consult with an attorney before accepting a low ball offer from the insurance company.
The bottom line is that there are many reasons why most injured workers want to return to some type of work after an on the job injury. Insurance companies would be wise to consider this before taking the position that all injured workers are the “enemy” looking to exaggerate their injuries for financial gain. The truth is that unless the insurance company is willing to offer a fair and reasonable settlement, workers’ comp may be the best – and only – option for an injured employee who has permanent restrictions after a work injury.
Need help with a claim? Call or e-mail Corey Pollard for a free evaluation of your legal rights. We help injured workers and their families in Norfolk, Fredericksburg, Charlottesville, Richmond, Virginia Beach, Williamsburg, Fairfax, and Prince William County. And if you’re unable to return to work we can also help you get approved for Social Security Disability benefits in Virginia.