Q: Can the workers compensation doctor force you to go back to work if you are on disability?

I'm currently on temporary disability and considering filing workers comp for wear and tear injuries. However I'm afraid the workers comp doctor would force me to go back to work with "restrictions". I have a co-worker who hurt his knee badly and the workers comp doctor forced him to go back to work with "light duties", yet he's constantly on his feet. If I file for workers compensation and their doctor tells me I need to go back to work do I have to? If I refuse could it affect my workers' compensation claim or my disability benefits? If the doctors did have that control would it only be after my job accepted responsibility or even with the initial doctor's visit upon filing?

2 Lawyer Answers
James L. Arrasmith
James L. Arrasmith pro label Lawyers, want to be a Justia Connect Pro too? Learn more ›
  • Employment Law Lawyer
  • Sacramento, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: In California, a workers' compensation doctor cannot force you to return to work against your will. However, their medical opinion can significantly impact your workers' compensation benefits and your ability to remain on disability. Here are a few key points to consider:

1. If the workers' compensation doctor determines that you are able to return to work with restrictions, your employer is required to offer you a position that accommodates those restrictions. If your employer cannot provide such a position, you may be entitled to continue receiving temporary disability benefits.

2. If you disagree with the workers' compensation doctor's assessment, you have the right to request a second opinion from a different doctor within the workers' compensation system.

3. If you refuse to return to work after being cleared by the workers' compensation doctor, and your employer offers you a position that accommodates any specified restrictions, it could potentially affect your eligibility for ongoing workers' compensation benefits.

4. The workers' compensation doctor's opinion is considered from the initial visit and throughout the claim process, regardless of whether your employer has accepted responsibility for your injury.

5. If you are receiving state disability insurance (SDI) benefits separate from workers' compensation, the workers' compensation doctor's opinion may not directly impact those benefits. However, if you are deemed able to work by the workers' compensation doctor, it could influence your SDI eligibility.

It is crucial to consult with an experienced workers' compensation attorney who can help you navigate the complexities of your specific case, protect your rights, and ensure that you receive the benefits to which you are entitled. An attorney can also help you understand the potential impact of the workers' compensation doctor's opinion on your disability benefits and guide you through the process of disputing their findings if necessary.

Nancy J. Wallace
Nancy J. Wallace
  • Workers' Compensation Lawyer
  • Grand Terrace, CA
  • Licensed in California

A: The solution is to elect a worker-friendly physician from the insurer's Medical Provider Network BEFORE the insurer sends you to their doctor. You do not have to see the doctor the employer chooses or the adjuster chooses; you can go to the MPN List for the Comp Insurer and select a real physician from the list who will write that you are either temporarily totally disabled or temporarily partially disabled but only able to perform desk work. If you decline desk work, then the employer doesn't have to pay you wages nor does the insurer have to pay you any temporary disability indemnity. The Adjuster and the Workers Comp Judge only have to award/pay what the treating physician writes and what the QME writes, so those physicians have to be selected with the utmost care. If you just grab any guy off the list, you'll be returned to full duty in pain and wonder why. Know all about a doctor before you go there.

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