A key goal of the North Carolina workers’ compensation system is to get injured workers back to work as quickly as possible after they sustain an injury. Thus, you may notice your employer, insurance adjuster, or nurse case manager pushing your doctor to send you back to work as soon as possible. You may not feel “ready” to return to work. However, how you feel is not the only consideration or even necessarily the main factor when deciding whether or not to return to work after a workplace injury. Why is this the case? In North Carolina, in order to continue receiving workers’ compensation benefits (called “temporary total disability” benefits), you must comply with a host of return to work rules that are pretty complex. If a job offered is truly “suitable employment” and you refuse to return to work, your employer may have the right to terminate your weekly checks, which is the last thing that we want! This area of the law is complicated, and we urge you to call us for a free consultation is you have these daunting questions before you.
In North Carolina suitable employment is defined in GS 97-2(22), and it is critical whether or not you have reached Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) when determining what may be suitable work for you. MMI is defined as the end of the healing period. In basic terms, this means the point in your recovery where you are as good as you likely will ever be after your work injury. Your authorized treating physician will largely determine when you have reached MMI. Once you understand MMI, then you can attempt to determine whether employment offered is suitable for you contingent upon whether are not you are at MMI:
*Pre MMI: If you have not yet reached MMI, suitable work includes any work that is offered to the employee that is in accord with the restrictions outlined by the employee’s authorized treating physician.
*Post MMI: If you have reached MMI, suitable work is considered any employment within 50 miles of the employee’s home at the time of injury, or within 50 miles of the employees’ current home if they moved for a legitimate reason since the date of injury, that the employee can perform “considering the employee’s preexisting and injury related physical and mental limitations, vocational skills, education, and experience.”
To complicate things further, the job you were performing when you were injured will not always be suitable employment. You may not be in a position to perform that job after your injury for various reasons. All of the above considerations and more are why it is incredibly important to hire an attorney to analyze whether and when you should return back to work after a work-related injury or illness. The determination of if and when to return to work and whether the job is “suitable employment” will typically impact the value of your workers’ compensation case significantly. Call or Contact Maggie for a free consultation.
Reading through all of these definitions and rules can have you feeling like this:
And we don’t blame you—that’s why we’re here to help. Call Maggie Shankle at Shankle Law Firm to receive your initial free consultation today.