Do I Have to Work If I Have A Doctor's Note? What If They Tell Me I Have to Work?
Still Need To Work Even If There Is A Doctor's Note?
A guy called me up. He got hurt at work. He went to his family doctor. The family doctor referred him to an orthopedic doctor. He had a back injury and both his family doctor and the orthopedic doctor wrote a note saying that he should do light duty. So when you're going to work in an off work note from a doctor, it can either be a note that says you can't work at all or it can be a note that says light duty. No standing or lifting more than 20 pounds or more than 10 pounds or things like that.
This guy had a very physical job. Actually, the family doctor told him not to work at all. The orthopedic doctor gave him a light duty work note where it was no sitting and standing repetitively and no lifting above 20 pounds. Well this guy worked in a factory and he had to lift more than 50 pounds basically all day.
The main reason he called me is that the company was calling him and saying "hey you got to come to work". He provided him with the off work note and they still wanted him to come to work. They actually threatened his job. They told them "if you don't come in, we're gonna fire you, we don't do work comp here". That's what they told him something.
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Bad Idea To Go To Work
I'll tell you what I told him. The way workers comp works is, if you have an off work note or a light-duty note from a doctor and your job requires you to do things that exceed that modified duty and it's a really bad idea for you to go to work. The main reason is, like I said before, you get one body and life. If you go back to work and don't follow your doctor's orders you could easily hurt yourself much worse. I don't like to see my clients get hurt at all, but you certainly don't want to get hurt worse.
Follow Your Doctor's Work Restrictions
The the name of the game here is you ought to follow your doctor's work restrictions. And the company can't force you back to work. They're not allowed to call you up and say "we don't care about your doctor's note, we want you to come in and do it". If they do that, there are penalties in workers comp. We can get a case filed and get in front of the arbitrator and actually get them penalized for that act for doing that.
That's a dirty pool, but there's one exception. If you read some of the other articles that I've written, you know that the company can hire their own doctor to examine you not to treat you. You get to pick who treats you. I rarely or never recommend that somebody treat with the company doctor. But the workers comp insurance company can hire a doctor to examine you almost as many times as they want to. But your doctor directs your treatment.
Work Base On How You Feel
So if it's a scenario where your doctor says "Jim stay home from work". And the company doctor says "no way! he's a hundred percent ready to go to work, he doesn't need to be off work". That might be a situation where me or another workers comp lawyer might tell you to try to go to work, based on how you feel. That's how I do it.
If I got a treating doctor who says "don't go to work", I'm inclined to follow that. And not follow the company doctor, things saying go to work. But if there's a conflict and my client feels good and my client feels like they're ready to go to work, then I'll sometimes tell them
"Look, we will get some credibility with the judge and with the insurance company if you try to go back to work. And if you can't do it, report it and you can always get another off work note. Then at least you tried to go back to work in light of the conflict. And in a conflict like, that we're much more likely to go to court and win and get all that medical care, get that TTD and that lost wages paid for you because you tried to go back to work, but you just couldn't do it."
Your Rights Not To Go To Work
I hope that makes sense. The general rule is, if you have an off work note from a doctor, you are a hundred percent within your rights not to go to work. But if there's a conflict between the company doctor and your doctor and you feel up to it, it doesn't really hurt your case to try.
But if you're not able to do it, you got to get back to your doctor right away. Report to the doctor what they had you doing, how it made you feel and what happened. Get your attempt to go back to work documented and then get a fresh off work note and honor that want to put you not in your best position to win the case and get your benefits.
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