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Can I Apply for a New Job While on Workers' Comp?

The Law Office of David Hunt Dec. 22, 2023

I'd like to address a question that I've encountered numerous times in my legal practice here in Peoria, Illinois. It's a question that often stirs a lot of concern among individuals who have qualified for workers' compensation benefits and are contemplating a career switch: "Can I apply for a new job while on workers' comp?" 

Yes, you can. In most scenarios, changing jobs does not result in the loss of these benefits. Regardless of whether you stick with your current employer or move to a new one, your medical benefits should remain intact as long as the main contributing cause of your need for treatment is a work-related injury. However, you should continue seeing an authorized workers' comp doctor at least once a year to safeguard your medical benefits. 

But like with any legal question, this answer isn't exactly black and white. It depends on several factors, such as the laws in your state and the specifics of your case. That's why it's key to consult with a qualified workers' comp attorney like me. From my office, The Law Office of David Hunt, I have a deep understanding of your state's laws to comprehend how a job change can impact your benefits.  Reach out to me today for guidance.

Navigating Lost-Wage Benefits 

While your medical benefits will generally be secure in a job change, the situation gets a bit tricky when we talk about lost-wage benefits. These benefits kick in when the authorized doctor determines that you're unable to work entirely or have restrictions that result in earnings below 80% of your previous average weekly wage. If your new job pays more than 80% of your earlier wage, the lost-wage benefits may cease. It's important to note that double-dipping—receiving lost-wage benefits while earning a higher income—is strictly prohibited. 

If your new job pays less than 80% of your previous average weekly wage, and the lower pay is a result of your workplace injury or illness, things get even more complex. You might be entitled to reduced earnings benefits, but securing these may require the assistance of a workers' comp attorney to argue your case and ensure you receive the appropriate compensation. In some states, these benefits are not available if you voluntarily leave your current job. 

Light-Duty Work and Workers' Comp 

Light-duty work refers to temporary or modified tasks that an injured worker can perform while recovering from a work-related injury. This could mean fewer hours, less physically demanding tasks, or even a completely different role within the company. 

However, not all states require employers to provide light-duty work, and not all employers have such positions readily available. So, if your doctor clears you for light-duty work and your employer doesn't have a suitable position, you might want to consider utilizing your Family Medical Leave Act (FMLA) benefits to secure your place at your current workplace. 

Now, if you're cleared for light-duty work and your employer does have a suitable position, it's in your best interest to honor the return date. Doing so allows you to continue receiving your workers' comp benefits while transitioning back to work. But remember, just because you're back at work doesn't mean you're fully rehabilitated. You're still entitled to medical support as long as your recovery continues. 

On the other hand, if you find light-duty work elsewhere because your current employer doesn't offer it, things might get a bit tricky. The insurance company may challenge the continuation of your lost wage benefits.  

What to Consider When Contemplating a Job Change 

If you're contemplating a job change while on workers' comp, it's essential to prioritize settlement negotiations before making any final decisions. Employers are often hesitant to settle a case with an employee who plans to switch jobs, as they may worry about future injuries and potential additional claims.  

By remaining an employee during settlement negotiations, you can leverage your continued presence on the payroll as a bargaining chip. Once the settlement is finalized, you can then pursue new employment without jeopardizing your benefits. 

Remember, workers' compensation laws vary among states. If you're considering a job in another state, your claim won't automatically transfer. The law that applies is the law at the time of the accident, regardless of where you currently reside. Moving to another state may present logistical challenges, such as finding an out-of-state doctor who accepts the fee schedule of your workers' comp insurance company. Consulting with a workers' comp lawyer who has experience in multi-state cases can help you maintain understanding and control of your situation. 

Address Your Questions With an Attorney 

To wrap up, the decision to apply for a new job while on workers' comp requires careful contemplation and consultation with a qualified attorney. While medical benefits generally remain intact, lost-wage benefits and the potential impact on settlement negotiations should be thoroughly evaluated. By understanding the specific laws of your state and seeking professional guidance, you can make an informed decision that protects your rights and maximizes your benefits. 

As always, I'm here to assist you with your workers' comp needs. Feel free to reach out to my office in Peoria, Illinois, anytime. I'm proud to serve communities across Peoria County, Woodford County, and Caswell County.