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After Worker's compensation: What happens long-term?

As if dealing with an injury were not enough stress, you are also likely dealing with limited finances and what may seem like a limited future. If your injury left you unable to do the same job you did before you were injured, what are your options? Can you return to school for re-training? What if your injury is so severe that returning to school is not an option?

There are many variables at this point. Some things depend on whether your doctor ultimately determines that you have completely recovered, or that you have some level of permanent disability.

What are the different re-entry levels for work?

While there are about as many scenarios as there are people, life after workers' compensation will probably fall into one of four categories based on your physician's evaluation. Your doctor may:

  • Recommend you return to work without restrictions: This designation means that your injuries have healed to a degree that they no longer encumber your job. You are free to return to work, your employer is not required to provide an accommodation for you and your worker's compensation benefits end.
  • Recommend you return to work with restrictions: Your doctor has determined that you can return to work as long as certain restrictions are in place. For example, you may have restrictions on the amount of weight you can lift, or the number of hours you can work in a day. Your employer is required to provide you with these restrictions. If you are only able to work part-time, you may also receive continued partial workers' comp benefits.
  • Declare you partially and permanently disabled: Your doctor has determined that your injury left you with a permanent injury that affects your ability to work. Options in this case may include returning to work in another position, or reemployment training. Workers' compensation benefits may continue in certain circumstances.
  • Declare you permanently disabled: Your injuries are such that you are no longer able to work. If you are permanently disabled, or your injury is such that it will impede your ability to work for more than 1 year, you may apply for benefits through Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI). If you find that after some time that you would like to try vocational rehabilitation, Social Security may be able to help.

What happens now?

Each category has specific consequences for your job and your future. Being completely forthright can help your doctor make the best decision for you. Whether you are able to fully return to work, or are permanently disabled, the good news is that there are many options available for your future. Speaking with a workers' compensation attorney can help you determine what decisions are best for you now, and in the future.

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