If your doctor states that you have to take off from work to make a full recovery, then yes, you do need to take time off for your work injury. Failure to do so can put your benefits at risk of being canceled.
Similarly, if your doctor says that you do not have to take time off from work and instead can perform less physically stressful work with your injury, you must do this. Choosing to abstain from
work when you have been cleared to perform certain job duties is as much of a violation of your workers’ compensation settlement as continuing to work after your doctor stated that you are unfit to do so.
You might be wondering why it is so important to obey your doctor’s orders about whether you can return to work or not. After all, you know your body and your ability to perform your job better than he or she does. Despite being told not to work while you recover, you might feel physically capable of performing certain tasks and drawn to the prospect of performing side jobs for cash while you receive partial or total temporary disability coverage. You might even feel this way if you are receiving partial or total permanent disability benefits.
As tempting as it might be to continue to work, do not do this.
You Need to Focus on Recovering
Even work that is seemingly non-physical, such as skilled crafting or light yard work, puts physical stress on your body. When you are recovering from an injury, you need to focus on your recovery. By taxing your body with work, you are delaying your own recovery.
If you injure yourself again while performing work unrelated to your regular job, you are not entitled to workers’ compensation. You could then find yourself facing medical bills and still unable to work, but without the safety net that your employer’s workers’ compensation policy provided.
Working While Receiving Workers’ Compensation is Fraud
Because the lost wage compensation that you receive is supposed to fill the income gap that you experience because you cannot work your regular job and thus receive your regular wage, taking on other paid work while receiving this compensation can cause you to actually earn more than you were earning before your injury. This is an abuse of your company’s workers’ compensation policy and harms your employer and any future employees who might seek this coverage. If you are physically capable of working while you receive lost wage compensation, you probably do not actually need that compensation.
Your Doctor Knows Best
Although you might feel physically capable of returning to work or taking on a second job, there could be weaknesses or potential physical risks that you are unaware of. Your doctor, due to his or her medical knowledge and experience working with patients who have suffered from the type of injury you suffered, knows all of the things that can go wrong during your recovery and how to address them if they occur. He or she also likely has a recovery timeline in mind that you, as a patient, need to actively work to follow.
Do not be afraid to ask your doctor for an explanation for his or her determination that you cannot work or his or her decision to release you to light duty. Your doctor should be able to explain his or her decisions to you in clear, understandable language. It is your body, your injury, and your recovery – educate yourself about what is going on by discussing it with your doctor. As a patient, you deserve to know about your condition and recovery progress.
To contest your doctor’s determination about whether you can return to work or if you need to avoid work and other physical activities, talk with your attorney. A dispute about your workers’ compensation settlement will require you to appeal the decision. This is something that your attorney can help you to do.