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How Soon Can I Go Back to Work After an Accident?


If you have been injured in an accident, you are likely well aware of the financial stress and strain that paying for medical treatment can have on you and your family. There can be little doubt that every accident victim’s goal is to get better and return to work as soon as is practical. given how expensive medical treatment can be with or without health insurance.

Given that serious injuries can often linger for weeks or months, it is important to have a plan about when you will, or when you should, return to work after your car accident. As such, many accident victims take as much time as they believe they need to heal from their car accident-related injuries. However, this is a common mistake. Most personal injury lawyers typically advise clients to follow their physician’s instructions and to not miss more work than is medically necessary.

Why Can’t I Decide When To Return?

If you have been injured in an accident, you will likely want to take your time healing and making sure that you are able to work. However, it is important to understand that insurance companies are unlikely to cover lost wages in motor vehicle accident claims if the accident victim has not been written out of work by a physician. More importantly, if the insurance company is going to cover your lost wages from your accident, they will likely only cover the portion of time for which your physician or a similarly situated physician would write you out of work for a comparable injury.

As such, if you have been written out of work for a week and you decide that you would prefer to wait another five days to ensure that you have completely healed, it is unlikely that the insurance company will compensate you for that period of time that was not ‘doctor ordered.’

Should you feel that your physician has written you out of work for a period of time that is too short, consider contacting your physician about the need for additional time as you get closer to returning to your job. By doing this, you can show your doctor that you are actually monitoring your healing process, and you can also show the insurance company that your doctor believes that it was medically necessary for you to remain out of work for an additional period of time.

What If My Doctor Didn’t Write Me Out of Work?

If you were not written out of your job, you may have a difficult time proving lost wages for any time you miss from work. However, there are several simple steps that you can take to make sure that you protect yourself and your family.

First, if you have not been written out of work by the emergency department, consider following up with your primary care physician and speak to your doctor about your medical ailments and concerns. Secondly, while speaking to your physicians, clearly and accurately describe the kind of work that you do and how your injuries will interfere with those activities. Finally, many emergency physicians and primary care physicians prefer for the treating doctor to make the final decision. As such, be sure to speak to your orthopedic doctor about your injuries and daily activities.

What If I’ve Been Written Out of Work?

If a medical professional has indicated that you are or will be unable to work for a period of time, you should inform your employer immediately. While North Carolina is an at-will employment state, we have found that communicating with your employer about your injuries can make a significant difference in whether they decide to terminate your employment. Additionally, it is important to track the use of any and all sick time, vacation time or paid days off used while you are written out of work.

Should your employer require any medical documentation or doctor’s notes, be sure to provide those as soon as you are able to ensure that your employer is aware of your situation.

What If I Was Not Written Out of Work but I Am Still in Pain?

It is important to pay attention to what your medical providers are telling you. If they feel that you would be able to return to work light duty or with a modified work regiment to account for lingering pain, you should discuss with your employer whether or not that is possible. If your medical providers are telling you that under no circumstances should you return to work anytime soon, it is better to heed their advice than to return to work too early and suffer a new setback that complicates your personal injury claim. Most importantly, you should only return to work if your physician believes you are medically able.

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