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Returning to work after suffering an on-the-job injury can be daunting. You may be reluctant to go back to work because of fear of pain or re-injury. Or you may worry that you won’t be able to perform your job duties as well as you did before you were injured. If your doctor has not cleared you to return to work, it’s important that you don’t return, even if your employer is pressuring you to do so. But what if it’s your doctor who says you’re ready when you know you’re not fully recovered? 


If your workers’ compensation doctor clears you to go back to work, and you feel unable to do so, it’s important that you seek the help of a workers’ compensation lawyer.  If you refuse to return to work when the doctor says you’re ready, you risk losing your workers’ compensation benefits. At the same time, if you return too soon, it could have a negative impact on your health.  A workers’ comp attorney can help you navigate this tricky situation.  

Remember, the doctor recommended by your claims adjuster may have your employers’ best interest in mind rather than yours.  A workers’ compensation lawyer may be able to help you get a second opinion from a specialist who is qualified to treat your condition. This will increase your chances of receiving a fair and honest evaluation of your ability to perform your job functions. 

Even if your doctor does want what’s best for you, he or she may not be completely aware of your job duties. Many doctors are extremely busy, and they often rush through appointments. It’s crucial that you take the time to advise your doctor in detail about your responsibilities at work. For example, your doctor should know if your job requires that you sit for long periods of time, that you perform heavy lifting, or that you make repetitive motions.  Your doctor needs to know everything about your job duties in order to make an informed decision about whether you are ready to return. You may find that once he or she has all the information, they agree that it is too soon for your return to work. In some cases, they may recommend that you return with restrictions. 


If your doctor says you can return to work with restrictions, it’s important that you get a written note describing these restrictions in detail. Restrictions may include:

  • Avoiding heavy lifting
  • Avoiding kneeling or squatting
  • Light work (minimum physical effort)
  • Sedentary work (no standing or walking)
  • Emotional restrictions 
  • Shorter hours

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The exact details of the restrictions will be dependent on your particular job duties and your specific illness or injury. The more information your doctor has about the specifics of your job, the better able he or she will be to create a plan that allows you to receive the benefits of returning to work without jeopardizing your health and healing.  Once you have a copy of the doctor’s note detailing the restrictions, you’ll want to:

  • Make a copy of the note for your records
  • Keep a copy with you when you return to work
  • Provide your employer with a copy 

If your employer cannot offer you work within those restrictions, you do not have to return to work. But if you do return, it’s important that you work within the restrictions recommended by your doctor. 


A successful return to work is dependent on a solid return to work policy. This is essentially a plan agreed upon by you and your employer that enables you to reintegrate back to work safely. Your workers’ comp lawyer can help ensure that your return to work plan is solid and that your health and interests are accounted for. An effective return to work plan should include:

  • Acknowledgment of your restrictions by your employer, any supervisors, and the company’s HR department
  • A detailed outline of the accommodations your employer will make to ensure that the work offered remains within the restrictions
  • A communication plan between you, your doctor, and your employer so that all parties can remain informed about your recovery and the timeline of your return to full work duties

If your manager or supervisor continues to ask you to perform duties outside your restrictions, contact your workers’ comp attorney right away. 


If you’ve been injured on the job and your doctor says it’s time to go back to work, it’s important that you do so. But if you haven’t recovered, and you’re worried that it’s too soon, contact The Law Office of Matthew Russell. We have a collective 45-plus years helping injured workers navigate the workers’ compensation system. We’re all too familiar with the dirty tricks employers and insurance adjusters play to take advantage of hard-working people. And we’ll fight back on your behalf. You have the right to recover from your workplace injury. If you need someone to advocate for you, let it be us. We’ve committed our lives to fighting for injured workers just like you.

Call 619 544-1506 today to schedule your free consultation today.

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