top of page

When Can Workers’ Comp Stop Payments?

Workers’ compensation benefits help injured workers support themselves when a workplace accident prevents them from working. It’s no exaggeration that these benefits are a lifeline for many families. Although workers only receive two-thirds of their average weekly wage, these benefits are critical for covering bills, such as your mortgage.

One question is, “when you will stop receiving workers’ comp payments?” The general answer is when your doctor clears you to return to work. Call Surasky Law Firm if your employer or their insurer is pressuring you to return to work when you aren’t fully healed. You might challenge the insurer’s decision and continue to receive the necessary benefits. There’s no risk of reaching out to our firm to talk over your case with a workers’ compensation lawyer.

When Can Workers’ Comp Stop Payments?

Workers' comp payments can stop for a number of reasons, including maximum medical improvement (MMI), which is when you are as well as possible, if you are able to return to work, if you reach a settlement with the insurance company, or in the case of death. In general, workers' comp insurance companies cannot stop paying your benefits without notice.

Duration of Benefits for Workers’ Compensation

Most workers initially start with temporary disability benefits. For example, you could suffer a devastating traumatic brain injury, which makes it impossible to work. With medical care and rest, you slowly begin to make improvements. But that doesn’t mean you should return to work right away.

As you can imagine, employers are eager to get people back to work so they can stop paying benefits. Unfortunately, many workers are still badly hurt and should be focused full-time on recovery. This is why you should receive benefits for as long as you need them—but there are some “hard” limits. For example, someone who is permanently disabled can receive benefits for a maximum of 500 weeks unless they are paralyzed or have a serious brain injury. Other benefits have shorter maximums.

Returning to Work Full Time (“Full Duty”)

Employers like to get workers back to full duty as soon as possible. Once you are cleared to return, your benefits will be cut off.

A doctor will clear you to return to work based on the severity of your injuries and any limitations, as well as the demands of your job. It is not unusual for a doctor to quickly clear you to return to work when you are still in extreme pain. Often, they argue that pain is a normal part of the recovery process and, therefore, not anything that should keep you at home.

Doctors are supposed to rely on their professional expertise and be unbiased in determining when you can return to work. Nonetheless, it often feels like a doctor is in cahoots with an employer, forcing you back on the job too soon.

Even if you have limitations, an employer can try to get you back to work by accommodating your limitations. That means changing your job in some way so that you can come in and perform. This accommodation is called offering “light duty.”

Being Returned to “Light Duty”

Some workers are not 100% better. However, they are well enough to return to do some meaningful work. A doctor can clear a worker to return to “light duty.” In essence, this means your employer is willing to accommodate your restrictions by letting you work a less demanding job:

  • Removing certain duties from your job description. Your shoulder injury might prevent you from lifting a box over your head, so the employer doesn’t require that you do that task—although you come back and do everything else.

  • Transitioning to a different job. Someone with back surgery might be unable to stand for 8 hours, so your employer moves you to a desk job.

  • Working fewer hours. Many people return to work part-time as they continue to rehab their injuries. Although their injuries prevent them from working 40 hours a week, they might work 20.

What happens if you refuse to come back on light duty? That’s simple: your employer can cut off workers’ compensation benefits. If you’re cleared to come back, even on light duty, you need to come back.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits when on Light Duty

In many cases, “light duty” work pays less than what you made before your injury. That’s particularly true if you are only working part-time due to your limitations.

The good news is that you can receive benefits for the difference between your pre-injury wages and your current wages. You would be entitled to 2/3 of the difference. For example, you might have made $600.00 a week working 40 hours. On light duty, you work only 20 hours, so you make only $300. You are eligible to receive two-thirds of the difference ($200) in workers’ comp benefits.

Sometimes, an employer cannot return you to light duty, in which case you should still receive benefits. For example, there might not be an alternative job, or your limitations prevent you from doing most of the job.

Were You Cleared to Return to Work Too Early?

Sadly, this happens more often than it should. Many of our clients report feeling as if their doctor is not listening to them. The doctor discounts the pain they feel and quickly clears them to return to work.

The good news is that you can request a hearing with the Workers’ Compensation Commission if you disagree. The purpose of the hearing is to determine whether you should continue to receive benefits. We strongly recommend that you work closely with an attorney to present your arguments. We might recommend that you meet with a different doctor who can provide an alternative perspective on your limitations; here at Surasky Law, we have reliable physicians for you to use.

Our clients want to return to work. But being forced to return when you are feeling pain helps no one. You might not even be able to perform your job properly, which increases the risk of another accident.

Fighting for Injured Workers

Surasky Law Firm has met with many workers over the years who are cleared to return to work when they are still badly injured. Even light-duty work is often too strenuous for them. No one should be forced to work when they are not capable of it. No one wins—not you, not your employer, and not the public. For assistance, please call our law office to discuss your current medical condition. We can help you appeal any doctor’s decisions, clearing you to return to work.


Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Follow Us
  • Facebook Basic Square
  • Twitter Basic Square
  • Google+ Basic Square
bottom of page