Sustaining an Injury in the Workplace
Sustaining injuries at work can be physically, mentally, and financially taxing on an individual. An individual who suffers a workplace injury may become temporarily or permanently disabled. This new disability may have a negative impact on the individual’s mental health as the thought of his or her new physical limitations may cause him or her to feel immense mental anguish or frustration. Still, in addition to negative emotions that may manifest after sustaining an injury, if the individual can no longer perform his or her job duties, then it may cause him or her to experience financial problems as he or she will no longer be able to work in the capacity he or she once did and will have to apply for workers’ compensation benefits to stay financially afloat. Workers who suffer injuries that only cause temporary or partial disability may not experience all of the stressors mentioned above to the same extent as those who are completely or permanently disabled because they can perform what is called “light duty work.” However, being assigned “light duty work” can come with its own challenges if you are also receiving workers’ compensation benefits for your injuries.
Determining if you are Eligible for Light Duty Work
If you are injured in a workplace accident, then your employer will likely require you to be evaluated by a doctor that can diagnose and assess the extent of your injuries. If your employer does not require you to do so, it is prudent that you obtain a medical evaluation on your own to assess your injuries in the event that you try to apply for workers’ compensation benefits. Whether your employer requires you to undergo an evaluation or you obtain one on your own, the doctor will make a determination that, based on your injuries, you can or cannot perform your normal job duties. In addition to making this determination, the doctor will also determine if you can work subject to certain restrictions or if you cannot work at all. If the doctor determines that you can work subject to certain restrictions, you will be eligible for light duty work.
What is Light Duty Work?
Light duty work are job duties that are less physically demanding than the job duties an individual performed before his or her injury. When employers assign injured employees to perform light duty work, the employers either assign employees tasks which fit within the restrictions placed on the employee by the evaluating doctor or provide employees with accommodations such as use of special tools to perform tasks that they previously performed unassisted or shorter hours. The purpose of light duty work is to allow employees the opportunity to continue working while, at the same time, providing them time to recover from their injuries.
Examples of light duty work include the following:
- Reassigning an injured worker who previously performed manual labor to office work if the worker has a weight lifting restriction imposed on him or her
- Reassigning an injured worker to supervise or formulate reports on job sites
- Reassigning an injured worker to monitor surveillance cameras or perform light cleaning tasks
- Reassigning an injured worker to perform inventories
- Modifying an injured worker’s work schedule to include shorter hours
- Modifying an injured worker’s performance metrics so as to allow the worker to work at a slower pace than normal
- Allowing for the use of cranes or other machinery to allow an injured worker to perform their normal job functions with some assistance
How Light Duty Work Affects Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Whether you are eligible for light duty work or not, if you are injured at work in New Jersey, you will likely qualify to receive workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ compensation benefits are money allowances provided to injured workers to cover any lost wages they incur while they recover from their injuries.
If you are deemed eligible for light duty work, you may still receive workers’ compensation benefits. However, the amount of workers’ compensation benefits will be less than if you were not able to work at all. For example, if you are assigned light duty work and make less money than what you made prior to your injury, you will only receive workers’ compensation benefits for partial disability and, consequently, you will receive a smaller payment for lost wages. However, if you are assigned light duty work and you earn the same amount or more money than you did before your injury, your workers’ compensation benefits will likely end.
Still, even if you are eligible for light duty work and your employers offer you light duty work, you are not obligated to take your employer’s offer. In this instance, if the light duty work your employer offers you does not comply with the restrictions imposed on you by the evaluating doctor, you will be entitled to continue to receive workers’ compensation benefits. However, if you reject your employer’s light duty work offer and the work is within your restrictions, your employer can request that a workers’ compensation judge modify or terminate your benefits. Consequently, it is important to think about the ramifications of not accepting light duty work if it is offered to you. Of course, even though you are approved for light duty work, your employer may not offer it to you. If this is the case, you will be entitled to receive full workers’ compensation benefits in accordance with your disability status.
Contact an Edison Workers’ Compensation Lawyer to Discuss Your New Jersey Workplace Injury Case
A workplace injury can be devastating, particularly if it prevents you from returning to work for an extended period of time. Although New Jersey workers’ compensation laws are supposed to provide you with reimbursement for medical expenses and replacement pay for missed time at work, it is not always easy to get the workers’ comp benefits you deserve. That is why you should speak with a knowledgeable workers’ compensation lawyer about your situation and get guidance throughout the claims process. The experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Lombardi & Lombardi, P.C. represent clients in Edison, Brick, Freehold, Point Pleasant Beach, and all across New Jersey. Call (732) 709-7992 or email us today to schedule a free consultation about your work injury case. Our office is located at 10 Parsonage Road, Edison, NJ 08837, and we also have offices in Brick, Freehold, and Point Pleasant Beach, NJ.
The articles on this blog are for informative purposes only and are no substitute for legal advice or an attorney-client relationship. If you are seeking legal advice, please contact our law firm directly.