If you have suffered from a work-related injury or illness and are now receiving workers' comp benefits, you may not consider how long your benefits could go on. Being able to stay home and get better is an invaluable perk, even if you are only receiving a portion of your normal salary while doing so. Moreover, having medical bills taken care of means one less thing to stress about. You should know, however, that these types of benefits are not meant to be indefinite. Read on to learn more about what happens when your illness or injury does not allow you to return to work in a timely manner.
When an injury doesn't heal
Most workers' comp claimants use the benefits for a few weeks or maybe a few months and then return to their jobs. Not everyone is that fortunate, however, and when you continue to need workers' comp benefits for an extended period of time, you may need to provide additional information. The insurance carrier that your employer uses to cover injuries has standards in place that predict when a worker with a given condition should be able to return to work, and if that doesn't happen, they may ask you to undergo an independent medical exam (IME).
What to know about the IME
This exam allows the workers' comp insurance carrier to learn more about your injury and make a determination about whether or not you should be able to return to work or not. Sometimes you just need a little more time to heal, especially if you had to undergo surgery and are still recovering form that. In some cases, however, your injury is not going to heal well enough for you to return to your previous position.
While this exam is certainly important, you should not be overly concerned that you are about to lose your benefits. If you are found to have a permanent injury, you will still be covered, but the type of benefit you receive is very different from what you have been receiving. The doctor performing this exam does work for the insurance carrier, so you should not expect to have the usual doctor-patient level of confidentiality. The result of this exam could result either in a continuance of benefits, a ruling that you are healed enough to return to your job, or confirmation that you have reached what is known as maximum medical improvement (MMI). A ruling of MMI means that your injuries are not expected to improve further and that you have a permanent injury.
If you are being told to return to work and are still unable to due to your injuries, speak to a workers' compensation attorney immediately. Likewise, if you are being told that your injuries are permanent, you will the help of a skilled negotiator to get the most fair settlement.