Baby Steps: Transitioning from North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Back to Work

February 9, 2011, by Michael A. DeMayo

Whether you’ve been on North Carolina workers’ compensation for two weeks or eight years, with your doctor’s blessing, you’re now ready to start looking for part-time work again. This blog post will give you ideas about how to make this transition as painless and productive as possible.

1. Don’t violate the terms of your North Carolina workers’ compensation arrangement

If you take certain work while on workers’ comp, you may violate the terms of your benefits. Not only could you lose your benefits as a result, but you could also get in trouble for North Carolina workers’ compensation fraud. Penalties for fraud can include fines as well as jail time, so play it safe.

2. Don’t go “all in”: Test your limits, and work incrementally towards a full return

For instance, say you twisted your knee badly on a construction site. Your orthopedist and physical therapist helped you recover full function of the damaged joint. Now you’re tempted for financial reasons to get back on site and start drilling holes (or whatever) again. Careful! A too-early return to work could undermine the sensitive reconstruction efforts.

Your basic process should be: “Start small. Test. Ramp up a bit. Test. Ramp up a bit more. Test again.” And so forth. Yes, it can be frustrating to have to hold back when you “know” you could handle more. But the goal here is not a one-time push or exertion – it’s the ability to engage productively in the work that you love for as long as you want to do that work. If you shortcut the recovery process, you may make it difficult, if not impossible, to recover fully.

3. Pay attention to medical issues that snag your attention

Often, in our desperation to return to gainful employment after an injury or illness, we ignore or subconsciously repress feelings of pain, uncertainty, and anguish. Especially if your family is depending on you to produce — and your coworkers and employer are counting on you to “step it up” in the wake of your recent time off — you may be tempted to go faster, harder, or more vigorously than your body is ready for. Don’t ignore your body!

One way to identify your subconscious feelings about your work is to keep a journal. Write down your experiences after every work shift. Note any chronic or acute pain or even general odd feelings you have about your job. Often, these written descriptions of your day-to-day work will give you clues to help avoid re-injury and even speed up your recovery. For instance, you might notice that a specific kind of bending exacerbates your pain. If so, talk to your boss about not having to do that bending work anymore.

4. Get advice you can trust

Is your employer giving you a hard time about your benefits? Are you caught up in insurance red tape? Are you confused about something you read on the North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC) website? If so, a qualified North Carolina workers’ compensation law firm can give you insight and guidance about how best to proceed.

More Web Resources:

North Carolina Industrial Commission (NCIC) website

going back to work “too soon”