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Can I Apply for a New Job While on Workers' Comp?

Wilson & McQueen, PLLC March 27, 2024

Being on workers’ compensation doesn’t mean your career aspirations must be put on hold. Many individuals find themselves contemplating the possibility of venturing into new job opportunities during their recovery period. If you're one of them, you might be wondering whether this is a feasible option or whether it could affect your workers' compensation benefits. 

At our firm, Wilson & McQueen, PLLC, we are eager to meet with you to address these concerns, offering you insights into the legal struggles and considerations of applying for a new job while receiving workers' compensation. If you’re in or near Lexington, Kentucky, contact us if you need help with any aspect of workers’ compensation. We also proudly serve clients throughout the surrounding areas, including London, Georgetown, Richmond, and Nicholasville. 

Understanding Your Rights and Limitations 

First and foremost, you should thoroughly understand your legal rights and the limitations that may come with your workers' compensation claim. Generally, receiving workers' compensation benefits does not legally prevent you from seeking new employment. However, the nature of your injuries and the stipulations of your current job under workers' compensation may limit the type of work you can pursue. 

What Are Lost-Wage Benefits? 

Lost-wage benefits are designed to help compensate you for the wages lost due to your inability to work as a result of your workplace injury. The aim is to provide financial stability during your recovery phase until you can safely return to work. It's important to know that these benefits typically cover only a portion of your regular earnings, and the specific amount can vary based on state laws and the severity of your injury. Keeping detailed records of your missed workdays and medical conditions is recommended to ensure that you receive the appropriate compensation. 

Light-Duty Work 

If your doctor has cleared you to return to work, but you're unable to perform your usual duties due to your injury, you may be offered light-duty work. This type of work is less physically demanding and aims to accommodate your current physical capabilities.  

Accepting light-duty work can impact your workers' compensation benefits, particularly your lost-wage benefits, as you will be earning wages again. It's essential to communicate openly with your employer about your limitations and ensure the light-duty work offered is appropriate for your medical condition. 

Considerations Before Applying for a New Job 

Before you start updating your resume or scrolling through job listings, there are several important factors you need to consider. These considerations will help ensure that your actions align with your recovery goals and do not jeopardize your current workers' compensation benefits. Here's what you need to keep in mind: 

  • Medical Restrictions: Ensure that the new job role aligns with the medical restrictions and the functional capacity evaluation provided by your healthcare professional. It’s key not to engage in work that could exacerbate your injuries. 

  • Impact on Benefits: Transitioning to a new job while on workers' compensation can complicate your benefits. For instance, if your new job pays more than your current or pre-injury position, it could lead to a reduction or termination of benefits. Always consult with your workers' compensation attorney to understand how a job change might affect your claim. 

  • Notification Requirements: Depending on the laws in your state, you might be required to inform your current employer, workers' compensation insurance carrier, or both about your intent to start a new job. This transparency can help avoid any allegations of fraud or non-compliance with workers' compensation regulations. 

Consulting with a knowledgeable workers' compensation attorney can provide valuable guidance and clarity, ensuring that your decisions support your overall recovery and financial stability. 

What Happens If You Get the New Job? 

Filing for workers' compensation and then choosing to start a new job can significantly impact your benefits. It’s important to carefully understand these impacts to avoid any potential financial or legal complications: 

  • Reduction of Benefits: If your new job offers you a salary that is equal to or greater than your wage prior to the injury, your workers' compensation benefits could be reduced or even terminated. The rationale behind this is that workers' compensation is designed to supplement your income to a level close to your pre-injury earnings. 

  • Termination of Benefits: Starting a new job, especially if it's in a different role that doesn’t align with the injury-related work restrictions, might lead to a complete termination of benefits. This action is based on the assumption that if you are able to perform work in a new role, you may no longer be eligible for workers' compensation. 

  • Reassessment of Claims: Your decision to start a new job will likely prompt a reassessment or review of your claim by the workers' compensation board or insurance carrier. This reassessment will investigate whether your injury still limits your ability to work and whether you are rightfully entitled to continue receiving benefits. 

  • Medical Benefits: It’s also necessary to consider how a new job might affect the medical benefits portion of your workers' compensation claim. While lost wages benefits might be reduced or terminated based on your new income, your entitlement to needed medical treatment for your injury should generally continue unabated, assuming the treatment is related to the initial workplace injury. 

Each workers' compensation claim is unique, so the specific impacts of starting a new job on your benefits can vary widely. To avoid unintended consequences, always consult with a workers' compensation attorney from Wilson & McQueen, PLLC, before making decisions that could affect your claim. 

Proceed With Caution and Professional Guidance 

Making a career move while on workers' compensation is a decision that should be approached with caution. It's advisable to seek guidance from a qualified workers' compensation attorney who can provide personalized advice based on your specific circumstances and the laws in your state. An attorney can also negotiate on your behalf to ensure that you continue to receive the maximum benefits to which you are entitled while transitioning to new employment. 

The Importance of Communication 

Communication is key throughout this process. Keeping all relevant parties informed about your job search and any subsequent employment change helps maintain the integrity of your workers' compensation claim. It also assists in managing expectations and ensuring that your recovery and financial support are not adversely affected. 

At Wilson & McQueen, PLLC, we understand that life doesn't stand still after a workplace injury. Our team is here to support you through each stage of your workers' compensation situation, including your decision to apply for a new job. We're committed to advocating for your best interests and helping you make informed decisions that positively impact your future. 

Choosing the right path while on workers' compensation requires careful consideration and advice. If you’re contemplating a job change, don't hesitate to reach out to us for guidance. Together, we can assess your situation and explore the best course of action for moving forward without jeopardizing your workers' compensation benefits.