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  • Writer's pictureRobert Schuerger II

Can an Injured Employee Be Forced Back to Work After Injury in Indiana?

Grappling with a work-related injury can be challenging. When an accident at work results in harm, workers have the right to receive workers' compensation benefits. However, there's no denying that when an employee is away from his or her position while recovering, it can place strain on the company, prompting them to take drastic measures.

In such cases, it is important for victims to understand their legal rights to prevent an employer from forcing them to come back to work before they have had sufficient time to fully recover. This article aims to shed some light on the matter and answer the question, "Can an injured worker be forced back to work after injury in Indiana?" Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys can also help with other questions like Can I be fired for an injury outside of work in Indiana?

Understanding Indiana's Workers Compensation Benefits

Understanding Indiana's Workers Compensation Benefits

It is critical to understand Indiana's workers' compensation laws before diving into the details of whether it is acceptable for an employer to force an injured employee back to work. The section below will explore the ins and outs of a workers' comp claim and additional benefits that may be available.

A Closer Look at Workers Comp. Benefits

In essence, workers' compensation is a state-mandated insurance scheme that provides financial aid and healthcare benefits to workers who are injured or ill because of work-related activity.

The truth is that in Indiana, like in most states, this system is a no-fault system, which means workers cannot normally sue the company they work for damages resulting from a work-related injury.

When a worker suffers an injury while performing their duties, they usually submit a workers' compensation claim instead of suing their company. The purpose of this claim is to obtain compensation to cover their medical expenses and lost wages as a result of the injury.

Indiana law prioritizes the fast and fair settlement of such claims in order to ensure that those who are hurt receive the required financial support while the workforce remains stable.

Additional Benefits

Workers may also qualify for additional benefits if they have to take a light-duty role because of medical restrictions. These benefits include the following:

Temporary Total Disability Benefits 

These benefits offer the victim a partial salary replacement that is typically equivalent to two-thirds of their average weekly wage in the year preceding their accident, up to a maximum threshold. These benefits will be paid until: 

  • The employee is able to return to work, 

  • Collects 500 weeks of benefits,

  • Refuses a medical assessment or restricted role, or

  • Achieves maximum medical improvement from their injury.

Temporary Partial Disability Benefits

Partial benefits may be available if an injured worker returns to a light-duty or part-time position while recovering from an occupational injury and will earn a reduced amount. This type of compensation will pay for two-thirds of the difference in pay for a limited time of 300 weeks. 

Indiana Law on Returning to Work

It's important to remember that Indiana protects injured workers from being abused and being forced to come back to work when they are not ready.

However, it also understands that a workforce can suffer while an employee recovers, so it aims to strike a balance between the need for the worker to return to work after suffering an injury and ensuring that they are physically able to complete their duties.

The law in Indiana recognizes the delicate balance between an employer's requirement for a fully operational workforce and an injured employee's right to rehabilitate without excessive stress.

The Indiana Workers' Compensation Act does not expressly allow businesses the ability to compel an injured worker to return to their job against their will.

Furthermore, the Indiana Workers' Compensation Board administers the state's workers' compensation system and has created criteria to ensure that employees with injuries are treated fairly. If an employer forces an injured employee to return to work too soon, it may be considered a breach of the worker's rights under the workers' compensation system.

Injured Workers Must First Obtain Medical Clearance

Employers may face serious penalties if they force an injured employee to go back to work without adequate medical clearance.

The truth is that workers in Indiana have the right to adequate medical treatment as well as time off to recover from a work-related injury. Businesses must accept certified healthcare providers' medical opinions concerning a staff member's eligibility to return to work.

Suppose an employer ignores medical advice and forces a worker hurt in a work-related activity to return to work. In that case, they could subject themselves to legal liability. This might involve legal action by the injured worker, monetary penalties, and possible obstacles to workers' compensation claims.

Exploring Other Alternatives If a Worker Has Not Received Maximum Medical Improvement

The truth is that a work-related injury can place considerable strain on a company. While the state of Indiana does not provide businesses the right to force hurt employees back to work, it does urge both employers and staff to communicate openly in order to explore appropriate alternatives.

Devising a solution that takes into account the worker's needs, as well as the company's can provide an amicable solution in such cases and work well for both parties.

Having the worker only take on a light-duty job, amending his or her work hours, or providing certain devices to help them perform their duties more comfortably could all be considered reasonable adjustments to assist the recovering employee's return to work.

During the interactive process, both sides must participate in good-faith conversations in order to identify remedies that fulfill the needs of both the employer and the employee.

Work Restrictions

It's important for employees to take note of the work restrictions that their healthcare provider enforces. Failing to follow the doctor's advice could result in complications, which can lengthen the time it takes a worker to return to their duties.

Work restrictions may either be permanent or temporary, depending on the nature and extent of the employee's injuries. Permanent restrictions are often the result of disabilities that have resulted from the accident. Having an arm amputated because it was crushed in machinery, for example, would result in permanent restrictions, as the employee would be unable to use the injured arm.

A temporary restriction will apply when a worker has injured themselves but should be able to return to their normal job function once they have had enough time to heal.

Suppose the employee broke a bone, for example. In that case, they will only be unable to use the affected arm for a few months until the bone has had a chance to heal completely.

In this case, a doctor may place a temporary restriction on the worker so that they do not hurt the affected area.

Types of Work Restrictions

There are a number of different types of work restrictions that may apply. They include the following:

  • No kneeling or squatting

  • No heavy lifting

  • No heavy work (such as bending, pushing, or climbing)

  • Emotional restrictions (avoiding placing the employee in a stressful situation)

  • Limited time standing or sitting

  • Avoiding uneven ground

If an injured employee's doctor says that they can go back to work on light duty, they may enforce certain restrictions. It's important that workers take the provided documents with them when they return to work to ensure that they are not performing any duties that go above these limits. This can have an impact on the healing process.

It's always advantageous for victims to have a copy of any work restrictions imposed by a doctor with them at all times. They will also need to ensure that a copy of these restrictions has been provided to the relevant workers' compensation representative. 

Even if the worker and their employer have created a good plan for their return to work, they might at times require him or her to execute a task for which they have not been medically certified. Another employee supervisor may be unaware of their job limitations at times.

A different staff member may occasionally ask why they aren't doing more to assist. Having a copy of the restrictions with them allows them to demonstrate that they are unable to accomplish that work in a peaceful and effective manner.

What Should an Injured Worker Do If Their Employer Insists That They Return to Work?

If an injured worker is receiving workers' compensation benefits and has not been cleared by a medical professional to return to work, they have the legal right to continue to receive these benefits and remain at home until they are well enough to resume their work duties.

However, if their employer or an insurance company threatens to fire the worker or penalize them for not returning to work, employees can take legal action against them for violating their rights. They should contact a reliable workers' compensation lawyer immediately and begin the legal process. They can also advise on getting workers comp while having 2 jobs in Indiana.

An experienced workers compensation attorney will have a working understanding of the legal landscape and can provide expert guidance and assistance throughout the journey, ensuring that victims have the time they need to recover from their work-related injuries.

Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys Will Go to War for Injured Workers!

Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys Will Go to War for Injured Workers!

Schuerger Shunnarah Trial Attorneys understand the intricate workings of the workers' compensation system and the laws governing returning to work. They will offer expert guidance and aggressive legal representation for those who are being forced back to work after an injury in Indiana.


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