injured worker filling out workers comp claim paperwork in South Carolina

Injured workers navigating the South Carolina workers’ compensation system may find themselves ready to return to work under physical restrictions provided by their workers’ comp doctor.  If you’re in this situation, you must follow these restrictions until you have recovered enough to return to your normal job. Your work restrictions will specify exactly what tasks you can and cannot do at work due to limitations caused by your injury.

Your employer will either accommodate the physician’s work restrictions and bring you back to work on a “light duty” basis, or they’ll have to continue providing you with a weekly disability benefit check to cover what you would’ve earned had you continued working.

If your work restrictions can be accommodated at the job, it’s important that you make every effort to perform to the best of your abilities. It may not be easy to go back to work or to follow the work restrictions, but you have to show them you’re trying. If you refuse to try the light duty position, this can be used to cut off your weekly disability benefits.

Pushing through this difficult period could mean the difference in making or breaking your workers’ compensation claim.

It Is Very Important to Try to Go Back to Work

Going back to work might be painful. Despite the circumstances, it is very important to go back to work and at least try to follow your doctor’s light duty work restrictions, even if it is very difficult or painful.

Your employer will be expecting your return. If you simply call out or don’t show up for work, you’re showing them you are not taking the process seriously. This can be a recipe for disaster.

Not only will you likely not get a weekly benefit check, you might actually lose your job in the process.

If you give it your best shot but the pain is just too great, make another appointment to see the doctor as soon as possible. It is important to be specific and to tell the doctor exactly which work tasks are causing the debilitating pain. You may need additional care or an adjustment in your work restrictions. In some instances, the doctor may decide to take you completely out of work again.

Also, remember that you have the right to seek a second medical opinion if you believe the initial assessment of your work-related injury is incorrect or incomplete. While obtaining this second opinion may be at your own expense and the recommendations from this new evaluation could be contested by your employer, it might be a necessary step, especially if your health is not improving.

Throughout the entire process, keep an open line of communication between your employer and you. Be sure to tell your employer about the amount of pain you are in and which job activities are difficult. Also, keep your employer in the loop on all of your medical appointments.

In most cases, injured workers are able to work out a plan with their doctors and employers to return to work if the employer has light duty work available. For many employers, and especially smaller employers, this simply isn’t tenable.

What If Your Employer Ignores Work Restrictions?

If your employer disregards the work restrictions set forth by your physician after a work-related injury, this could endanger your health and potentially your workers’ compensation benefits. It’s imperative that you address this issue immediately.

Document every instance where you are asked to perform tasks that violate your restrictions and communicate these concerns to your employer in writing. If the situation is not resolved, you may need to bring this to the attention of your workers’ compensation representative or consider legal counsel to ensure that your rights and well-being are adequately protected.

What If Light Duty is Causing Pain?

When returning to work on light duty is exacerbating your pain, it’s crucial not to ignore the signals your body is sending. Overexertion can lead to further injury or delay your recovery. It’s essential to report any increase in pain to your employer and see your doctor for reassessment.

Your doctor may need to revise your work restrictions or provide additional treatment options. Remember, the goal of light duty is to facilitate your recovery, not hinder it, and your employer should understand and support this process.

How a Workers’ Compensation Attorney Can Help

Legal counsel can help ensure that your rights are respected and that you receive the full benefits you’re entitled to under the law. They can guide you through the process of securing a second opinion, negotiating with your employer, or, if necessary, representing your interests in front of the Workers’ Compensation Commission. With their knowledge and advocacy, you can focus on your recovery with peace of mind, knowing that your case is being handled professionally.

At Joye Law Firm, we’ve helped many clients get the compensation they’re entitled to. For example, in Awendaw, South Carolina, a 66-year-old man suffered a life-altering injury when an axe fell from a height of 10-15 feet, striking him on the head while he was supervising a pile-driving team. The incident led to severe physical and mental health issues, including post-concussion syndrome, PTSD, and severe depression.

Despite an attempt by the employer’s insurance company to undermine his workers’ compensation claim, attorney Matt Jackson from Joye Law Firm successfully secured a settlement of $165,000 for the man, demonstrating the importance of skilled legal representation in workers’ compensation cases. The case highlights the critical role of workers’ compensation attorneys in ensuring injured workers receive the justice and support they deserve, with Attorney Jackson going beyond the call of duty to provide both professional and personal support to his client and his family.

Contact an Experienced South Carolina Workers’ Comp Attorney

Every workers’ compensation case is different. If you don’t feel like your injuries are being taken seriously or feel your work restrictions are unreasonable, you may benefit from speaking with a qualified workers’ compensation attorney. A lawyer who understands South Carolina workers’ compensation law can help you navigate this complex process and help you best protect your future. Don’t hesitate to schedule your free consultation with Joye Law Firm. Call us now.

Originally published August 27, 2020. Updated January 29, 2024.

About the Author

Ken Harrell joined Joye Law Firm in 1994, and has been the managing partner since 2006. With 30 years of experience, he protects the rights of injured South Carolinians, including cases involving workers’ compensation, car accidents, and defective products. Ken also leads the firm’s referral practice, helping to ensure that our clients receive the best possible representation. He is a past president of South Carolina Injured Workers’ Advocates, and has served as the co-chairman of this organization’s legislative affairs committee for 12 years.

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