Some people who receive workers’ compensation benefits feel like their life is on hold. As they go through treatment to recover from their injuries, they know they won’t be able to return to their former line of work. But they’re afraid they will lose benefits if they quit a job while on workers’ comp.
In fact, if you are receiving workers’ comp benefits for a workplace injury, you should be able to resign from your current job without losing benefits. Leaving a job doesn’t automatically end a workers’ comp claim. But an employer may raise questions about why a worker no longer on the payroll is still receiving workers’ compensation benefits and seek to cancel paying benefits. Before resigning from your job, you should fully consider the potential consequences with the help of a workers’ compensation attorney.
Workers’ compensation cases can get complicated depending on the injury, the employee’s recovery prospects and other factors. The Raleigh workers’ compensation attorneys at Hardison & Cochran can work with you to help you seek all of the benefits available by law. We’ll work to make sure you understand what is happening in your case and the possible consequences of decisions you need to make about your future.
Two Parts to Your N.C. Workers’ Compensation Benefits
The basic workers’ compensation benefit in North Carolina is two-fold:
- Medical benefits, which cover all medical costs related to a workplace injury. This means that, from the ambulance that responds to an accident, to hospitalization, surgery, rehab and counseling, no medical costs come out of the injured worker’s pocket. Workers’ compensation pays for all medical exams and procedures, prescriptions and over-the-counter medications, and even mileage to and from the doctor for follow-up appointments.
- Disability benefits, which replace two thirds of your weekly wages while you cannot work. These begin after you have missed seven days of work and may continue for 500 weeks (9½ years) or longer with an extension.
An eligible injured worker’s medical expenses should be paid by workers’ compensation as long as the assigned doctor says the patient needs medical care. Job status does not affect medical benefits.
If you have already left your job and your employer has stopped paying your workers’ comp medical benefits – or has threatened to – you need to speak to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney right away.
Workers’ Comp Disability Benefits and Job Status
Workers’ compensation disability benefits exist to support injured workers financially while they receive medical care. The amount of the payment is based on the pay the injured worker received before being hurt.
There are four types of disability benefits:
- Temporary Total Disability (TTD)
- Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)
- Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)
- Permanent Total Disability (PTD).
Temporary disability benefits (TTD and TPD) end when a worker resumes his or her job. A worker might first be assigned light duty work and continue to receive disability benefits to make up some of the difference between lower light duty wages and their normal pay. A worker receiving PTD benefits would not be expected to return to any type of gainful employment.
If an injured employee who is receiving workers’ comp benefits quits their job, the worker may expect the employer or insurance administrator to review their eligibility for benefits based on wages.
Many employers will take the position that they no longer have an obligation to pay an employee who voluntarily leaves a job. Temporary disability benefits are paid based on a medical prognosis of eventual recovery and return to work. Now, the employee isn’t returning to work.
If you decide to leave the workforce, you should expect to lose disability benefits, unless you qualify for Permanent Total Disability payments. If not your employer, the insurance company would surely seek to discontinue payments.
Let’s say you have resigned to take another job, which requires different abilities not affected by your injury. If this position pays as well or better than your former job, then you have recovered financially, and it makes sense for wage benefits to end. You lose nothing.
But what if the new job pays appreciably less money? In this case, you might argue that your injury still adversely affects your ability to earn a living and, therefore you should retain a portion of temporary disability or PPD benefits to make up some of your continued wage loss.
We strongly suggest that you would need an attorney to make this case for you. Further, there is always the possibility that your injury has more of an effect on performing your new job than expected, and the new position doesn’t work out. You would want to reinstate your full disability benefit, which a lawyer might be able to help you do.
Look Ahead Before Resigning While on Workers’ Comp
If you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits and recognize a change in jobs is what is best for you, a workers’ compensation attorney can help you settle your claim without losing money you are due.
Under the best circumstances, you will have reached “maximum medical improvement,” or the best recovery expected from your workplace injury, before quitting your job. This will mean you’ve completed all medical treatment, so all your outstanding medical costs can be calculated and included in a settlement.
Contact a North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
If you suffer a workplace injury and leave your job while receiving workers’ compensation, you could easily leave money on the table that should go into your pocket. Workers’ compensation is a complicated program, and most workers who enter the workers’ compensation system after being injured do not understand it. The workers’ compensation attorneys at Hardison & Cochran have dealt successfully with workers’ comp claims across North Carolina for more than 30 years. We are here to help you seek the full compensation you deserve.
Contact the workers’ compensation attorneys at Hardison & Cochran toll-free at (800) 434-8399 or fill out our online contact form. You’ll get a response within 24 hours. Let our Raleigh workers compensation lawyers help you today.