Workers' Compensation

What is a trial return to work?

The first time a doctor releases you to return to work after having been out he’ll likely put some restrictions on you. For the reasons we’ve pointed out other places no one can really know if you are fit and capable for the work your employer is going to give you. Whether or not the doctor or the adjuster say so you are legally on a “trial return to work” for nine months. Technically this is true even if the doctor did not give you restrictions – but that trial lasts only 45 days. The idea is a good one: give you an opportunity to see if you can manage the job. If you cannot then the doctor signs off that the trial failed and the adjuster has not turn your checks back on. In practice it’s not quite the way it works. Adjusters and the rehabilitation nurses frequently forget to tell you that it’s a trial and often imply, or outright declare, that you have to do the work. Period.

The other issue is that you have to return to the doctor to be written back out of work. But the doctor’s office likely won’t set you an appointment unless the adjuster authorizes it. And the adjusters, being rather clever, will often fail to make this authorization. We’ve had to get the Industrial Commission order them to do so under threat of being held in contempt if they continue to refuse.

We think the best practice is to ask the doctor to set a return visit at the time that the doctor releases you to return to work. We think it’s fair to be pretty candid with the doctor on this point. You’re going to give it a try and you would like a return visit with him in three weeks or so to report as to how it’s going. In our experience doctors find this to be reasonable. They are much more likely to agree to this than to a request to simply stay out of work longer.