After a hearing, if the employer’s request to terminate benefits is granted, the employer may terminate benefits retroactively. This means the termination becomes effective from the date the employer first filed the petition. The employer will be entitled to a credit for the overpayment which accrued during the hearing and appeal process.
Among the most common reasons in an employer’s petition to terminate or suspend benefits:
- That the employee is no longer disabled. The employer will argue that the injured worker’s condition has improved to the point at which he is able to return to work full-time at his previous job or at some other job. The employer will argue that the worker could find another job if they really tried. This is when the injured worker’s job search log is very valuable. If a legitimate job search has been unsuccessful, chances are good that the workers’ compensation benefits will not be terminated.
- The injured worker has refused suitable employment. The issue here becomes whether the worker can actually do the job that the employer has offered. The treating doctor’s testimony and the testimony of a vocational expert on this issue is very important.
As soon as an allegation of refusing suitable employment is made, the injured worker should hire a vocational expert to test and examine the worker and examine his medical, education, work history, vocational and other records to form an opinion as to whether the employment offered to the worker is in fact “suitable.”
While medical testimony is always important, the issue involving suitable employment and whether a worker is in fact employable is more within the expertise of a vocational expert. The vocational expert will, of course, rely heavily upon medical records, but this expert will also conduct vocational testing and study the employee’s education, vocational skills, government employment statistics, work history and other materials upon which to form an opinion.
- The worker refused to cooperate with vocational rehabilitation efforts or refused to be examined by a doctor chosen by the employer. You should never let it be said that you refused to co-operate with vocational rehabilitation efforts or that you ever refused to be examined by a doctor. Resistance to vocational rehabilitation and to examinations by doctors should never be in the form of a flat out refusal. Such resistance, if conducted at all, should only be after close consultation with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney.
The employer may not need to file a petition in order for a worker's benefits to become suspended. If a workers fails to cooperate with vocational rehabilitation efforts, refused to be examined by a doctor, or does not accept suitable employment, the Industrial Commission may suspend benefits. Once an injured worker proves that he or she will cooperate, the benefits will be reinstated.
If a petition to terminate your benefits has been filed, you should call your workers comp' lawyer immediately. If you do not have a lawyer in Raleigh, Fayetteville or Dunn at this point, you should retain an experienced workers’ comp lawyer immediately. The issues involved will be too complex for you to handle yourself. The amount of money at issue is large enough to justify the expense of a lawyer.