As summer stretches toward its second half and tourism destinations reopen after the pandemic-driven 2020 travel season, many of us are planning vacations. Workers who have been stuck at home because of work injuries may wonder whether they can take a vacation while receiving workers’ compensation.
Since you are off of the job already, why not spend some time with your family away from home, you may ask. Clients sometimes ask, “Can I go on vacation or take a trip while on workers’ compensation?”
It’s permitted to take a vacation or holiday while receiving workers’ compensation as long as your vacation plans do not conflict with your status as a disabled worker trying to recover and return to work.
There are questions to consider, however, before leaving home for vacation or any trip while receiving workers’ compensation benefits. If you are a client of Hardison & Cochran workers’ compensation lawyers, we urge you to touch base with your attorney as you plan your vacation. We’d like to help you address the issues we discuss below appropriately.
Will Going on Vacation Impact Your Workers’ Compensation?
Most employers in the state of North Carolina are required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance to provide benefits to full- and part-time employees who develop work-related injuries or illnesses. The benefits include paid medical care and weekly temporary disability checks to replace a portion of your lost wages.
There is nothing in North Carolina workers’ compensation law that says an injured employee receiving benefits for a workplace injury is prohibited from going on vacation or spending some recovery time at the beach.
If you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits for temporary total disability, you should continue to receive your weekly disability benefit, which replaces about two-thirds of an injured worker’s normal wages. Your vacation time at the beach or in the mountains has no impact on a workers’ compensation insurance company’s obligation to pay your work-injury medical bills.
However, you do not receive paid vacation while drawing workers’ compensation disability benefits. Double-dipping – getting vacation pay and workers’ comp disability payments at the same time – isn’t allowed. Generally, workers’ compensation benefits are not taxed.
Can You Maintain Your Workers’ Comp Eligibility While on Vacation?
The primary issue regarding taking a vacation while on workers’ compensation is whether your vacation allows for the fact that you are injured or provides evidence that, in fact, you are not badly hurt.
Here are two things to keep in mind:
- Your medical care. You must keep up with all medical appointments and treatment while you are receiving workers’ compensation. Workers’ comp benefits are meant to support you financially while you recover from your injuries. If you skip a doctor appointment or rehab or other care while taking a vacation, then the workers’ comp insurer may argue that you have recovered, so your benefits should end and you should return to work.
Rescheduling doctor appointments that conflict with vacation time could work against you as well. If you are leaving town for a vacation, make sure you will be able to return for any medical appointments.
- Your vacation itinerary. As you plan a vacation while on workers’ comp, make sure to limit activities to comply with the restrictions of your status as an injured worker. Actually, you need to make sure anyone who sees your vacation will think your activities accommodate your injuries.
If you take a physically active vacation and your employer or insurer obtains photos, video, or social media posts about your vacation activities, a workers’ comp claims adjudicator might be able to get your benefits canceled. Even travel arrangements that require hours in a plane or car may be taken to indicate that certain injuries are not as severe as you’ve claimed. Don’t post anything to social media that could be taken out of context and used against you. Consult your doctor about what activities are appropriate for your medical status and, as always, follow the doctor’s order.
We’re not overstating it when we tell you that insurance companies sometimes send investigators to gather evidence of potential workers’ compensation fraud. If they know from social media or other sources where you’ve gone for vacation, it costs them little to tell a local freelancer that they’ll buy photos or videos showing how healthy and active you are. Paying for a photo that ends your workers’ comp benefits is a good return on investment for an insurance company.
Contact a Raleigh, NC, Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Being on workers’ compensation does not mean you are not allowed to take a vacation. But as long as you are receiving workers’ comp payments, the insurance company making the payout will want to be assured that you deserve them. If they get any idea that you are not injured as you claim, they will move to put a halt to your benefits.
The attorneys and staff at Hardison & Cochran stand up for people who have been injured on the job and need help obtaining workers’ compensation. We will help you seek and maintain workers’ comp benefits if you have been injured in a workplace accident in North Carolina.
Benjamin T. Cochran, the managing partner of Hardison & Cochran, is one of three attorneys at the law firm who are Board Certified Specialists in North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Law. Hardison & Cochran is listed in The Best Law Firms in America 2021 in the practice area of “Workers’ Compensation – Claimants.” Call our experienced workers’ compensation lawyers toll-free at (800) 434-8399 or fill out our online contact form to set up a free initial consultation. We take every workers’ compensation claim seriously. Let our Raleigh workers’ compensation lawyers help you today.