Going back to work after a car accident injury: When should you go and how will you know?
Not every car accident victim sustains permanent and catastrophic injuries in an accident. Some injuries can improve quickly, while others are more serious and persist for years. During the recovery process, it’s not uncommon for victims to experience intermittent periods of both improvement and regression. Improvements may be seen when going through rehabilitation or allowing the injured part of the body to rest. Regression may be seen when injuries are not fully diagnosed or the injury is not given adequate time to heal.
During periods of injury or symptom improvement, it is common for personal injury claimants to consider returning to work in hopes of regaining a part of the life they had before the accident. Many people are uncertain if they are well enough to make this possible. During this consideration stage, many questions arise:
- “If I return to work – will my personal injury claim be affected? Will the insurance company contend that I was not even injured in the first place?”
- “My injuries are still there, but the bills are mounting. Should I try going back to work – even if it makes my injuries worse?”
- “I have good days scattered amongst mostly bad days. I am thinking about returning to work in a limited capacity (if permitted by my employer). Would this show the insurer that I am doing everything possible to minimize losses? Is there any harm in trying?”
- “What happens if I try going back to work – but it becomes clear my injuries are worsening. Will I be punished for trying? Will I be blamed for my injuries getting worse?”
- “If I try, but am not able to continue working – will the insurance company deny me compensation from that date forward?”
- “If I’m experiencing moments of improvement, but do not go back to work – will I be accused of malingering by the insurance company?”
- “I’m still injured, but I am also self employed. I feel that if I don’t go back to work now – I won’t have a job to go back to later.”
These are very real concerns experienced by car accident injury victims have during their recovery process. The truth is, there is no one perfect answer that would apply to all situations.
Every workers role and job related demands are different. The types of injuries and symptoms each injury victim experiences can vary greatly. With some injuries it might be okay to persevere and trudge forward, while with others it’s best to let injuries rest and heal fully. In some situations, attempts in returning to work may highlight the claimants efforts to mitigate losses – while in others, it can fall under insurer scrutiny and spin doctoring.
For the above reasons, it’s important to seek the guidance and advice of the doctors and therapists that are treating you, as well as from your personal injury lawyer, before returning to work. Their number one priority should be you (the injured person’s) long-term health and welfare. The suggestions below should be considered in general terms and not taken as formal legal advice.
- If your doctors feel that you are not ready – then don’t go back to work.
- If you and your treating doctors both feel that you are okay to try – then do so whole-heartedly. Make regular follow-up appointments with your doctors to monitor symptoms and or changes you are experiencing. If he/she advises you to stop working – then follow his/her advice.
- After trying, if you are not able to continue working, then your employer and co-workers may become valuable witnesses to your failed attempts.
- In some situations, claimants may feel certain they are not able to return to work– but their doctor feels that they are. If this occurs, you and your lawyer may consider the need for further medical advice or injury diagnosis.
- Seek out the advice of your personal injury lawyer if financial hardship is forcing you to consider going back to work before it’s been medically recommended.
The decision on when to go back to work is a significant hurdle for people who have been injured in car accidents. Healing from car accident injuries is often a lengthy and uncertain process. The choices made about going back to work, or not, can have serious and lasting consequences. Keep clear lines of communication between yourself, your doctor and your lawyer. They are there to help you. Let them know when you’re unsure. Be sure to seek out their guidance on how to take that next best step.
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