If you are an injured worker who is not totally disabled (you have some capacity to work), it is important to know that in a contested claim, you must perform a work search in order to receive the full amount of workers’ compensation benefits owed to you.
What exactly does this mean? This means that if your case goes to a hearing, in order for the Administrative Law Judge to award you the full amount of weekly compensation, you must prove to the judge that as a result of your work injury, there is no work available to you within your community.
To do this, the judge will evaluate your work search based on a number of established factors – these factors include, but are not limited to:
1) The number of places you apply – a good rule of thumb (even in this economy) is 10-15 applications per week.
2) The geographic area of your search – if you have transportation, your work search should include employment opportunities outside of your town. If you have no restrictions on sitting, you need to be willing to drive 30-45 minutes each way.
3) Whether you applied in good faith (you’re actually trying to get hired) – the judge wants to see that you have spent time looking for work that you can do (that your effort was real).
4) Whether you applied at places that are actually hiring – it is far better to apply for positions that are either advertised or known to be hiring. For the purposes of the work search, it is not helpful to apply with employers who are not hiring. We recommend using online resources where job listings are posted.
5) Whether you applied for jobs that are appropriate given your education and work history – it is important for you to apply for jobs that you have reason or hope to believe that you could get with your background.
6) Whether you applied for jobs that are appropriate given your work restrictions – to do this, find out what the physical requirements of the job that you are considering. If the job’s physical requirements are outside of your work restrictions, ask the employer if the job can be modified to accommodate your work restrictions.
What happens if you do not perform a work search? The judge will determine how much money they think you can earn each week with your injury and will then subtract that amount from the full amount of weekly compensation.
The work search process is often the most litigated part of a workers’ compensation claim. You should not hesitate to contact an attorney if you have work capacity, because failure to perform a good faith work search can significantly affect your weekly benefits. Please give us a call at 207-874-4771.