What to do when a workplace injury affects your ability to work


When you receive an injury while on the job, you may need sufficient time to recover. In some cases, you may never return to your previous state of health and have to live with a permanent disability. Either way, you are unable to perform your duties due to the injury.

What should you do in this situation? Should you work despite doctor’s orders or quit? What if your employer fires you? To avoid making a mistake that could cost you your workers’ compensation claim, you should understand how to answer these questions.

Types of disabilities

First, it is important to understand what your injury status is, as it will affect the outcome of your current and future employment. There are four basic categories of disability:

  1. Temporary partial disability: Your impairment will not last, but in the meantime allows you to work only in limited ways.
  2. Temporary total disability: You cannot work at all now, but you will recover and be able to work again in the future.
  3. Permanent partial disability: Your injury makes you permanently disabled but still able to fill some positions that are usually lower in pay.
  4. Permanent total disability: Your injury prevents you from ever being able to re-enter the workforce.

Medical attention

Follow the treatment plan of the doctor you are required to see, but also consult your regular provider for a second opinion. Sometimes insurance companies and/or employers push employees back into work too soon either to avoid paying benefits or to get hurt workers to quit. Your attorney can also help you determine if the medical advice you receive is sound.


When it comes to termination, the law gets a little tricky. You can lose your job due to cutbacks, poor performance or permanent disability that no longer allows you to complete your work responsibilities (usually applicable to physically demanding jobs).

However, if you can still do your job with some reasonable accommodations, then your employer must retain your employment and provide those accommodations. If the company fires you because of your disability, it is discrimination. If you lose your job for filing a workers’ compensation claim, it is retaliation. Both can warrant legal action against your employer.

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