Workers’ Compensation: Tips for Returning to Work After an Injury

Workers’ compensation provides benefits to employees injured on the job or who suffer from work-related illnesses. In Oregon, the workers’ compensation system is administered by the Oregon Workers’ Compensation Division (WCD), which operates under the authority of the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services. 

The WCD provides injured workers with medical treatment, wage replacement, and vocational rehabilitation services to help them return to work after a work-related injury. The ultimate goal of any workers’ compensation system, including the one in Oregon, is to make it possible for people injured or made ill through accidents or conditions at their jobs to recover and return to their jobs.

If you fully recover, you may find that returning to your old job is easy, but it is not that way for everyone. This article explains the process for returning to work after collecting workers’ compensation benefits for a work-related injury and how a Bend workers’ compensation attorney can help you when problems arise.

Benefits through workers’ compensation

When you suffer a work-related illness or injury, workers’ compensation gives you immediate access to medical care, so you don’t have to worry whether you can afford to pay for it. Unlike some states that allow the employer or the workers’ compensation insurance company to dictate which doctor you can see for a work injury, Oregon workers’ comp laws enable you to go to any healthcare provider of your choice; the cost will be paid for by the workers’ comp carrier once the claim is approved. 

If your doctor certifies that your illness or injury prevents you from returning to work, you are entitled to receive time-loss benefits. You must wait three days before wage-replacement benefits begin, unless you spend at least one night in a hospital or cannot return to work for at least 14 days.

The expectation is that you will eventually recover from the illness or injury and be cleared by your treating physician to return to work. Sometimes, though, there may be challenges to returning to your former job. 

Wage-replacement benefits through workers’ comp

Workers’ compensation in Oregon pays two types of benefits for time lost from work:

  • Temporary total disability benefits: When your doctor determines that you cannot do any type of work because of a job-related injury or illness, you may collect temporary total disability benefits equal to two-thirds of the average weekly wages that you had before your claim. The state sets weekly minimum and maximum time-lost benefit amounts that can change yearly. 
  • Temporary partial disability benefits: If your doctor determines that your injury or illness enables you to continue to return to work under medical restrictions, you may receive temporary partial disability benefits equal to two-thirds of your average weekly wages that you received prior to the injury or illness, but it takes into consideration the wages that you receive while working under medical restrictions.

An example of temporary partial disability benefits is when you are cleared by the doctor to return to light-duty work that results in lower earnings. You are entitled to receive temporary partial disability benefits representing two-thirds of the difference in your weekly wages.

Returning to work after a job-related injury or illness

If you have missed a considerable amount of time from work, your employer may not have kept your job open for you. The law in Oregon protects your job only if your place of employment has more than 20 employees. If you work where there are 20 or fewer employees, your job may not be available for you. 

State law in Oregon provides three programs to help people to get back to work after a work-related injury or illness:

  • Employer-at-Injury Program: Employers in compliance with state workers’ compensation laws may be eligible to receive a wage subsidy for as much as 50% of the gross wages paid to a worker returning to the job after an illness or injury for up to 66 days during a period that does not exceed 24 consecutive months. Funds may also be available to an employer to pay for equipment, tools, or workplace modifications to enable a worker to return with work restrictions.
  • Preferred Worker Program: Employers in compliance with state workers’ comp laws who agree to hire workers who cannot return to their normal jobs because of the effects of a job-related injury or illness can receive premium discounts on their workers’ compensation insurance and other financial benefits from the state. The program’s objective is to make jobs available to workers who cannot return to their previous employment.
  • Vocational assistance: Workers returning from work-related injuries or illnesses that leave them with limitations, preventing them from doing the work that they did before their claim for compensation benefits, may be eligible for job placement and training assistance through their workers’ compensation insurer.

If your employer makes it difficult for you to return to work after an injury or illness, you have the right to seek redress through the Oregon Workers’ Compensation Division.

Getting help from a Bend workers’ compensation lawyer

Learn more about your right to return to work after being injured or becoming ill because of a job-related accident or condition. Contact a Bend workers’ compensation attorney for a free consultation to find out about programs available and your rights when the time comes to get back to work.

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