Workers’ Compensation is generally a very poor substitute for a job. You will never be fully compensated for your injuries for any permanent disability that may result. As your lawyer, I can only recover for you what the law permits. It is my belief that workers’ compensation benefits in Nebraska are, in many ways, not adequate. If your case proceeds to trial, the Workers’ Compensation Judge will take into consideration your motivation to return to work and your credibility in determining your entitlement to benefits including weekly payments.
A common occurrence in a workers’ compensation case is an offer to return to light-duty work. Insurers, employers and their nurse case managers vigorously lobby doctors for releases to light duty work. The employer will often then offer an accommodation that may or may not be within the restrictions from the physician. We will never tell you to go to work or not to go to work. It’s not fair to direct you to go to work where you may be required to perform duties outside your restrictions and limitations. Inappropriate return to work can slow your recovery or even cause new injury. We will likewise never tell you not to go to work. We will simply try to explain what happens when this situation is presented. By not working where the employer claims it can accommodate, you run the risk that the Court will later determine that light duty work was available and the reason for being off work is not the company’s fault but your fault. Judges do look favorably upon attempts to return to work. We certainly don’t question your work ethic. A Judge can decide that the supposed accommodation to light duty was not appropriate, was not made in good faith and award you benefits for that period of time when the employer thinks you should be working but is not earnest in offering the accommodation. Just as we never give advice on health care because we are not doctors, the decision to go back to work is yours. You should simply know that Judges tends to reward those who at least make an effort but have the power to award weekly benefits for those periods when the light duty accommodation is not genuine and appropriate. If you try to go back to work and it fails, you should return to the doctor and explain why the work was not within your abilities. By attempting return to work, even if it fails, you can look your Judge in the eye and explain how you tried. This is a grey area in many cases. There is no “one size fits all” answer when this comes up.