Although sustaining a work injury can be very difficult physically and emotionally, one of the greatest concerns many injured workers think of first is whether they will need to take time off of work. Between hospital visits and prescription medications, medical expenses can pile up quickly and many workers simply wish to return to work. However, it is very important that injured workers take the time off from working that is necessary to recover as much as possible for their injuries.
In fact, in Illinois workers are required to take leave from work when it is mandated by the treating physician. When a worker reports an injury, the employer should provide them with a list of physicians who are part of their Preferred Provider Program (PPP).
Rules Regulating Medical Treatment
The Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act requires employers to pay, as part of the benefits for injured workers, any related and necessary medical expenses incurred due to workplace injury. According to workers’ compensation regulations in Illinois, injured workers have the option of selecting two physicians and receiving medical care from them and any additional doctors they are referred to.
The two physician rule protects workers from a tactic sometimes used by employers trying to save money on medical costs by forcing workers to seek medical care at “company clinics.”
A few additional points of clarification regarding the two physician rule include the following:
- Emergency room physicians treating the injured worker in emergencies are excluded from the two physician rule and would not be considered the initial doctors.
- In most cases, on-premise doctors will generally not be considered as the initial physician choice.
- Depending on the degree of choice the injured employee is given, a doctor at a company clinic could be considered an initial choice.
Being able to choose their own physician is one of the most important rights an injured worker has. This ability to choose ensures that the worker receives care from someone who is genuinely concerned about the recovery of the injured worker and has no conflicts of interest when prescribing treatment plans. Injured workers should choose a doctor based on their qualifications for treating the particular type of injury or condition so they have the best chance of making as full a recovery as possible in the shortest period of time possible.
Why Taking Time Off Work After An Injury is Important
Many injured workers feel restless when they must take time off of work, especially as they begin to
recover and regain their strength. Even if the worker feels able to return to their job, it is extremely important to continue taking time off work to achieve full recovery if the treating physician has not yet stated the worker is ready to return. Not taking the time to recover sufficiently may put the worker at risk for making the injury worse.
However, the worker does not necessarily have to achieve 100 percent recovery before they return to work in a partial capacity. If the treating physician approves a partial return to work, the injured worker may perform modified work duties until they can return to full capacity.
Compensation Available for Missing Work
When a worker is required to miss work due to a job-related injury, they are entitled to receive benefits through workers’ compensation. The benefits specifically used to compensate workers for missed time from work are known as temporary total disability (TTD) benefits.
- The employer must pay TTD benefits to employees who miss work because of job-related injuries. These benefits are meant to partially compensate the injured worker for their lost wages and are typically paid out at a rate of two-thirds of the weekly wages. After three days of missing work, the injured worker is entitled to these benefits and the employer must either begin TTD benefits on the fourth calendar day after of missed work. If a worker is still unable to return to work after 14 days of work, the employer must not only continue to pay TTD, but also retroactively pay the injured worker for their first three days of missed work as well. The minimums and maximums in place for TTD are set according to the statewide average weekly wages.
- If after reasonable medical treatment has been provided, the injured worker is unable to recover completely, the employer is required to pay them some kind of permanent total or partial disability. How much is paid is dependent on the injury and how much it prevents the worker from earning money.
The employer is, of course, also responsible for paying any and all medical expenses associated with the injury until such a time as the treating physician has released the injured worker on a clean bill of health.