When you are injured on the job, you have the right to a workers’ compensation claim. This claim will ideally cover the full cost of your medical bills alongside wage compensation for any income lost due to hours and duties you are unable to work.
Workers’ compensation policies are there to protect workers, but the insurance providers themselves often make it difficult to receive a full fair settlement, and will seek reasons to discontinue your benefits at any moment.
This is why it’s important to work with a workers’ compensation attorney and defend your settlement — especially if it’s time to make a change. Can you quit your job and still receive workers’ compensation? Can you get a new job while on workers’ comp?
David Aylor Law Offices in Charleston and Myrtle Beach can provide all the answers you need on quitting your job with a workers’ compensation claim in South Carolina.
Reasons to Quit While On Workers’ Compensation
Workers’ compensation makes it beneficial to stay with the same employer, as that employer has obligations to you regarding your injury and post-injury work schedule. However, there are some very good reasons to quit or change jobs even if you are currently receiving workers’ compensation benefits in your existing role.
- Your employer doesn’t offer appropriate light work
- Your workplace has become hostile since your injury
- You are less able to work than initially assessed
- You receive a much better job offer
Medical Workers’ Comp Benefits are Portable
The first thing you should know is that your medical benefits — those covering your treatment and medical costs — are portable.
This means that the benefits follow you wherever you go. If you continue to work for your initial employer, change jobs, or become unemployed, your medical expenses will be covered under the terms of your workers’ compensation settlement.
If an employer or their insurance carrier tells you that your benefits will be canceled if you quit or change jobs, they are not being truthful with you. However, if the settlement is not finalized, there are some risks that taking a new job may re-initiate the assessment of your health and ability to work.
Wage Compensation Benefits are Tricky
When it comes to wage compensation, you may have some cause for concern. In South Carolina, an employer is required to pay you 2/3 your average weekly wage in disability benefits when you cannot return to work due to a workplace injury. This lasts until you reach maximum medical improvement or you are given a disability/impairment rating that will dictate a level of light work.
If your doctor prescribes “light duty” to return to work, your employer is obligated to provide light work. If your pay rate drops as a result, you can receive a wage benefit through your workers’ compensation settlement to make up the difference. This will continue in perpetuity with the employer where the injury occurred.
Quitting with disability wages
In most cases, if you are given a disability rating and are unable to return to work — or your employer is unable to provide light duty — you will be granted disability wages to make up for the wages lost due to the injury.
If you quit your job when light duty is available, in other words refuse light duty and compensation pay, then you may be denied compensation pay in the future. However, if you line up a new job, some cases will allow you to take reduced-pay work with another employer and defend your wage compensation to make up the difference between your current and pre-injury pay.
Why quitting with wage benefits can be tricky
Wage benefits after workers’ compensation only apply if you accept light work from your employer, if available, and if you continue to make less than your initial income when the injury occurred.
For example, if you take a better job with higher pay that you can do with your injury, you are unlikely to continue receiving wage benefits from your workers’ comp settlement.
If your employer offers you light work and you refuse, you can be denied wage benefits. However, accepting and then changing jobs is sometimes workable. Watch out for any opportunity of the insurance provider to argue over your benefits and remove wage benefits in a moment of uncertainty.
When to Quit Safely After a Workplace Injury
How can you defend your workers’ compensation benefits when you want to quit or change jobs? Consider timing your change in employment carefully.
When you reach maximum medical improvement
Your final ability assessment will occur when you reach maximum medical improvement. This is when your doctor confirms that you have healed as much as you are going to.
They will then inform the insurance company about your permanent disability or ability status and long-term medical expense predictions. At this point, you are given a status and your injury report is set in stone.
When your total settlement clears
When your settlement has finalized, it is safe to start making decisions that might have been a problem during negotiations. If you quit during negotiations, the insurance company may claim that there was light work available (even if there wasn’t) and that you refused. If you change jobs, the company may claim that you “must be” suddenly able to work.
When the settlement clears, your position is defended and you can move forward with the set terms.
How to Defend Your Workers’ Comp When You Need to Change Jobs
The best way to carefully navigate changing jobs with workers’ compensation is with the help of an experienced employment law attorney. However, you can start defending your workers’ comp from a future job change right at the beginning.
Document available light work duties
If an employer does not have a light-duty assignment available for you (common with smaller teams), then they are obligated to pay you the full wage compensation amount, even if you are not fully disabled. However, sometimes companies will claim that light duty was available after you quit to cancel your wage benefits.
In response, document all available light duty communications and offers during your time with the company. Save emails and take meeting notes to make it clearer whether you were — or were not — offered acceptable light-duty work.
Document treatment after an injury or claim
Keep notes and records on how you are treated after your injury or filing your claim. Many workplaces become hostile, and evidence of attempts to drive you to quit can be used as legal defense against denying you wage benefits after this effort succeeds.
Line up a new job before quitting
Don’t transition from wage benefits with one employer to unemployment. Instead, line up another job directly. If it pays less than your pre-injury wages but you can do the job with partial disability, then your workers’ compensation provider may be obligated to continue issuing wage compensation to make up the difference.
Work with a workers’ compensation lawyer to strategize the move
A skilled workers’ compensation lawyer can help you understand the terms of continued benefits while changing jobs. Strategize your next move with the help of a workers’ compensation lawyer to ensure that at each stage, your negotiation position, settlement, and long-term benefits remain intact.
How to Quit Your Job While on Workers’ Compensation in South Carolina
If you are currently on workers’ compensation and are considering quitting your job, contact us today. Our employment law expertise can help you build a strategy that will defend your benefits and open up a better future. Contact us today to start an evaluation of your case.
Workers’ Compensation in South Carolina FAQs
Why is it so hard to make a workers’ compensation claim?
Employers may become hostile and even try to prevent employees from making a workers’ compensation claim. Insurance companies may do everything they can to discredit the injury and the benefits. This is because employer premiums go up when a claim is made and insurance companies — as a policy — hate to pay out.
Who should I call after an injury at work?
Call an employment law office like David Aylor Law Offices. Attorneys who focus on employment law and personal injury cases are especially well equipped to help you defend your workers’ compensation claim with your current employer, even if you’re in the process of changing jobs.