TOTAL TEMPORARY DISABILITY, OR TTD, benefits are provided to workers who are temporarily unable to perform their normal tasks at work. They are intended to assist with expenses incurred during recovery. As an injured worker applying for TTD, you must show you have tried to perform alternative, "light duty" work in place of your normal work. Otherwise, employers may be able to deny your claim. Here are a few things you can do to show your effort and protect the benefits you deserve:
Don't Quit Your Job
Just because you are unable to perform your usual job duties doesn’t mean you should quit. Quitting can severely hurt your chances of receiving full total temporary disability benefits. If you feel that you must quit your job for some reason, consult an experienced Workers’ Comp attorney first.
Get Specific Work Restrictions from a Doctor
Work restrictions show parameters for light duty work from a medical authority. Your normal doctor is able to give you work restrictions. If they are unavailable, WorkMed, WorkCare, low-cost/volunteer doctor clinics, or even chiropractors are usually able to give work restrictions as well. You must make sure these work restrictions are specific, dated, signed, and have an end-date (such as “until next appointment” or “for the next 3 weeks”). It is not enough to have a doctor’s note stating you are “released to light duty”. Vague restrictions like these can be easily twisted to fit a work task that doesn’t fit your specific situation. An example of specific restrictions would be “Patient may not lift over 15 pounds, no repetitive bending or squatting, and no repetitive lifting over 5 pounds”. Restrictions like these ensure the light duty you receive is appropriate to your injury.
Give a Copy of Your Restrictions to Your Employer
After you receive specific work restrictions, give a copy of them to your supervisor and the human resources department. Make sure you have documented proof that you gave them copies. This prevents your employer from saying they couldn't give you light duty since they never received your restrictions. Record the date, time, and place you delivered the copies. Sending a follow up email or text with an electronic copy is another protective measure.
Ask for Light Duty
You are better off being proactive than waiting for your employer to give you light duty. If your employer “hems and haws” after you request light duty, reiterate your willingness to work light duty in writing through email or text. If the hemming and hawing continues, show up for your assigned shift and do what you can until you are either sent home or given light duty work.
Don't Refuse Light Duty for Non-Medical Reasons
Sometimes the light duty offered to you is still too much. However, make sure you really cannot do the light duty offered for medical reasons related to your injury. Not wanting to do the work because you do not enjoy it or it is inconvenient is not usually recognized as a valid reason for refusing light duty. If for some reason you cannot do the light duty work offered, do not quit. Ask your employer for lighter work and report to your doctor to get updated work restrictions. Make sure to document everything, as said before.
The Bottom Line
Judges who rule on these cases reward effort from injured workers. The best way for you to protect your benefits is to try as hard as you can to keep working despite your injury. Even if the light duty offered doesn't quite fit your restrictions, try your hardest to do it anyway. If you can't drive to work because of a medication, get a friend to drive you or take public transportation. If the light duty involves machinery you can't use with your injury, do what you can and ask for help with what you can’t. Then communicate with your employer and doctor about the tasks you can’t do. Obviously you shouldn't do anything unsafe, but the more effort you put forth, the more likely it is that you will win your case.