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Who decides when a worker returns to the job after an injury?

On Behalf of | Jul 24, 2023 | Workers' Compensation |

Getting hurt on the job is stressful for a number of different reasons. Workers often worry about how their absence may strain their co-workers or endanger their careers. They may also worry about their financial circumstances, as they might have to go weeks away from their job and pay major medical bills.

Thankfully, the average injured employee in Illinois can expect workers’ compensation to help them. The benefits available after a successful claim include medical benefits to pay for treatment without any co-pays and also indemnity or disability benefits to help replace some of a worker’s lost wages.

Oftentimes, an on-the-job injury or work-related medical diagnosis will force someone to take a leave of absence from their employment. Who decides when that worker is ready to get back to their job?

A doctor usually makes the big decisions

The physician overseeing someone’s treatment is in a position of authority regarding what support that worker needs. The doctor managing the claim will suggest the treatment plan for their recovery and also determines through careful review when someone achieves maximum medical improvement (MMI) or fully recovers.

MMI is the term for a scenario in which a worker may have some ongoing symptoms but has improved to the maximum extent likely given their prognosis and diagnosis. Both MMI and full recovery are scenarios in which a doctor will recommend that someone returns to work. Occasionally, when workers disagree with that decision, they may need to request a second opinion. The program generally allows a worker to request a second opinion in many cases, provided that the care suggested by the physician is reasonable.

On the other hand, what a worker needs may not be additional medical support but rather documentation. A physician can recommend accommodations and functional limitations for someone’s employment that can make returning to work safer and more sustainable.

Understanding who makes important decisions about workers’ compensation claims, like the timeline for returning to work, can help a worker more effectively navigate the systems in place for their protection.