Confused about how to handle your light duty work restrictions in your Virginia Workers Compensation case? We got answers!
Your doctor will give you a very specific work status:
- Full Duty – The doctor has released you to return to work with no limitations
- Out of Work – The doctor has written you a note that states you are not to be working at all
- Light Duty – The doctor has written you a note that states you can work in a light or modified capacity
The first two are pretty straightforward, but the light-duty status can get tricky.
It’s is common practice for workers’ compensation doctors to put you on light duty or limitations while you are in the process of recovering from an on-the-job injury. A light-duty status can be any restriction the doctor places on you.
When a doctor releases you for light-duty, it can be a good thing. This means your injury is not debilitating and you also may have a positive prognosis for a full recovery. Make sure you always get a new/updated note EVERY time you see the doctor.
Tips For Your Light Duty Note
- GET IT IN WRITING – Workers’ compensation will ONLY recognize a limitation when it is in writing from the doctor. Get a new or updated note every time you see the doctor as restrictions can change over time
- Talk to your doctor – make sure they understand what kind of work you do and the physical requirements of your employment
- Get Specifics – your light duty note should be very specific. For example “rest as needed” won’t cut it. The note should read something more like “resting for 10 minutes every hour”.
- Ask Questions – If the doctor puts down a restriction that you do not understand, make sure you ask for clarification. You must have a good understanding of your limitations to ensure that you stay within them at all times.
- Copies – You need to have a copy of your light-duty work note. You need to make sure you are always aware of your limitations so keep a copy of your note and make sure your employer has one as well.
After You Get Your Light Duty Note
Once you have your light-duty work note, make sure your employer has a copy so that they can determine if they have work you can do under your doctor’s current limitations. If your employer is going to provide you with light-duty work, you will be required to report to work and attempt to comply with this.
Remember, as the injured worker, it is YOUR responsibility to stay within the limitations your doctor has set forth.
What if I can’t do the Light Duty work?
If you’ve attempted to do the light-duty work and are physically unable to do the job or if your employer is pushing you to do things that your doctor has specifically said you should not be doing, CALL YOUR DOCTOR IMMEDIATELY! The doctor is the only one who can make any changes to your work status and light-duty notes and you need to let him or her know what is going on right away.
What if I’m out of work but my employer is saying I need to come to work?
Sometimes when your Virginia workers’ compensation doctor has you out of work, the employer, adjuster, or the nurse case manager (NCM) will contact the doctor who has you off of work and convince him to let you work a light-duty job; sadly this often happens without the injured worker knowing anything about it! If your doctor has given you a note that says you are not to be working and then you get a call about returning to work, you need to contact your doctor IMMEDIATELY! You need to contact the doctor to get some clarity on what your true work status really is. If the doctor has changed your out-of-work note to now read as a light-duty release (this does happen often), you need to get a copy of this so you have a full understanding of what it is you can and can’t do and if you are to return to work at a light-duty status. The other reason to contact the doctor immediately is that if you truly have been given a light-duty release and do not return to work, your benefits could be terminated and you could lose your job for job abandonment – this is a HUGE mess for injured workers and should be avoided if at all possible!
What if my employer does not have light duty work for me?
If your weekly lost wage benefits are protected by an Award Order, you won’t need to do anything. If the employer contacts you later and says light-duty work has come available, simply go to work. However, if your weekly lost wage benefits are not protected by an Award Order from the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, you will have to job search in order to preserve your right to your weekly checks.
If you are faced with any situations like these regarding light-duty work restrictions, you should talk to a Virginia Workers’ Compensation attorney who can assess your circumstances and advise you of your legal rights and what steps you may need to take to protect your benefits. Please feel free to call my office at (804) 755-7755.
About the Author: Michele Lewane
The Injured Workers Law Firm is a Richmond, Virginia based firm solely focused on serving clients with workers' compensation claims in Virginia. If you have questions about your benefits or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order our book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” , or call our office today (804) 755-7755.