The technical answer is yes, you can change jobs while you are on worker’s compensation, and as long as you follow a couple rules (see below), you are unlikely to jeopardize your right to receive medical care for your work-related injury.
The Indiana Worker’s Compensation Act imposes two primary obligations on worker’s compensation insurance companies after a worker is injured on the job. The first deals with receiving temporary total disability benefits if the injury prohibits the employee from returning to work while receiving treatment. That obligation is dependent on an injured employees employment status. When it comes to medical care, the standard is different.
When an employee is injured on the job, the worker’s comp insurance company for the employer must pay for injury-related care, regardless of employment status. All of the following injured employees remain entitled to medical care:
- Employees whose injury allows them to keep working
- Employees who keep their job, but can’t work while receiving treatment
- Employees who are fired (even in many cases if it’s because of safety concerns leading to the injury
- Employees who change jobs
In other words, employment status, no matter when, how, or why it changes, never affects your right to medical care under the Indiana Worker’s Compensation Act.
Dangers of Changing Jobs While on Worker’s Compensation
There is a big danger associated with changing jobs that all injured employees must be on the lookout for. Workers must make absolutely certain that if they switch jobs, they completely adhere to any and all work restrictions imposed by their doctor – if you’re on a 20 pound lifting restriction, don’t take a job where you’ll have to lift 30 pounds! I have personally experienced a client who took a new job, exceeded restrictions, and sustained a re-injury. The new injury set the case back months and resulted in two separate worker’s comp insurance companies refusing to provide medical care, alleging she failed to follow doctor’s orders. Meanwhile, my client was suffering without anyone stepping forward to offer medical care. We ultimately got her a good result, but Indiana Worker’s Compensation Law does allow for insurance companies to refuse future medical care when employees don’t follow doctor’s orders.
Another danger: even if you are following doctor’s orders to a tee, an incident or injury to the same body part at the new job invites trouble. If an injured worker sustains a reinjury, then the worker’s compensation insurance company for the new employer will blame all your symptoms on the first injury, and the worker’s compensation insurance company for the first employer will blame everything on the second incident. They will both refuse to pay for any more medical care and just sit on their hands. You are stuck in the middle, and it will be your job to force the hand of one of them – they won’t fight it out themselves.
This is an awful situation because it distracts from your most important need – to recover from this injury and get back to work. As a result, even though technically an employee is allowed to change jobs while on worker’s compensation, I give my clients strong cautions about the potential consequences if a new injury or reinjury is sustained to the same body part while still receiving worker’s compensation from the first injury.
The moral of the story is that, yes, you can change jobs while on worker’s comp. However, it invites the possibility of a new injury, which from a practical standpoint will undoubtedly lead to insurance company in-fighting and delays and denials of medical care. So, it may not always be advisable. Every situation is different. So if you are considering a job change while on worker’s compensation, contact Hewins Law Firm today for a free consultation. We are uniquely equipped to provide clients with advice regarding this very issue.