Can I Start a New Job While Receiving Workers’ Comp Benefits?
Clients often ask me if they can start a new job or quit working for their current employer if they have a pending workers’ compensation case or are receiving benefits. While the answer can vary depending on the specifics of your case, I always tell clients that if they find a new job they want and are confident that the doctor will agree they can physically do it, don’t pass it up. However, before you take that job, you should know how it will affect you and your case. So, it is best to speak to an experienced attorney before making a final decision.
Some general guidelines apply in most situations. For example, your status as an employee does not affect your right to medical treatment or permanent partial disability benefits. However, it can affect some benefits like the following:
- Temporary total disability benefits
- Temporary partial disability benefits
- Wage differential benefits
- Vocational rehabilitation
To learn more about how workers’ compensation benefits are paid out, check out our blog here.
Quit Your Job Without Risking Your Case
I have had injured workers tell me that employers have told them their cases would be closed if they quit. This is not true. There is no rule that you cannot quit your job and start working for a new employer while your case is pending. If you quit your job or if you are terminated, the workers’ compensation insurance carrier is still legally obligated to pay for your reasonable and necessary related medical treatment to cure your work-related injury. And, if you are taken off work by your doctor in the future due to the injury, the insurance company would also be required to pay you temporary total disability benefits until you are released to return to work. Quitting will not affect your right to those benefits.
Discover how the law protects your rights to future employment in this blog.
You’re Entitled to the Benefits
Once you reach maximum medical improvement (which means you have finished treatment), you are still entitled to compensation for the injury, even if you quit your job. This is usually in the form of permanent partial disability benefits. Quitting your job or being terminated does not jeopardize your right to this benefit.
Quitting Your Job May Affect Your TTD Benefits
Quitting or seeking a new job may affect your right to temporary total disability benefits (TTD). TTD benefits are benefits owed to injured workers when they are off work per the doctor’s orders or are on restrictions that the employer cannot accommodate.
Possible Scenarios & What to Do
- If you are off work per the doctor’s instructions and quit your job, your right to TTD benefits continues.
- If the doctor has you off work completely, you should not start a new job. Working, in any capacity, when your doctor recommends you stay off work will not be favorable to your case.
- If you find yourself in a position where you find a job you think you can do, you should discuss that with your doctor and ask them to release you to perform that work. Then you can accept the new job and begin the work.
- If you are receiving TTD benefits and you find a new job, you must immediately report that to the insurance company. This is best done through an attorney to ensure the information is communicated correctly.
- If the new job pays you less than what you earned before, you may be entitled to temporary partial disability benefits. Beware that it is considered fraud to collect both TTD benefits and to work at the same time. You should speak to an attorney about how to best handle the situation within the confines of the law.
If you’re still unsure about your case, reach out to Black & Jones with any questions for a free consultation here.
Risks of Quitting While Receiving TTD Benefits
There may be risks involved when quitting your job while you’re still receiving TTD benefits. If the doctor releases you back to work on restrictions and the employer claims they would have been able to offer you accommodating work, had you not quit, you may stop receiving TTD benefits. You would need to find a new job within your restrictions in order to prevent any negative consequences.
Additionally, let’s say you end up with permanent restrictions that you think the employer wouldn’t have been able to accommodate. If you quit your job before they confirm that, you run the risk that they claim they would have accommodated the restrictions. Strategically, you are in a much stronger position to make them commit in writing that they would not be able to accommodate any restrictions before quitting or retiring. Then you have the benefit of having evidence if they later claim otherwise.
Perhaps you end up with permanent restrictions an employer cannot accommodate that cause you to lose your career or profession. In that case, you may be entitled to more permanent partial disability or wage differential benefits than you would if they can claim that you are not working there because you quit.
Know Your Options
As you can see, while the question seems simple and, in general, you can seek a new job while your case is pending, there are some pitfalls and traps that you need to be mindful of to ensure that you are not committing fraud. If you want to seek a new job, it is recommended that you talk to a seasoned attorney to discuss all the possibilities. At Black & Jones Attorneys at Law, we can guide you through the confusing system to ensure you maximize the compensation you’re entitled to. Call today for a free, no-hassle consultation at (815) 967-9000, or simply fill out the form here.