Injuries at work can be devastating. If you have been permanently disabled by an injury, it could impact your ability to continue fulfilling your current workplace obligations, meaning you’ll need to seek a new way to make a living. Vocational rehabilitation may be necessary in order to meet this need.
Workers’ Rights under Illinois Law
Under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act, your employer may be required to cover vocational retraining. If it is deemed necessary for you to improve your earning potential, they have to pay for rehabilitation expenses just as they have to cover medical costs, disability, and lost wages.
You are entitled to vocational rehabilitation if the following requirements are met:
- Your injury has caused a reduction in your earning capacity
- Evidence shows that rehabilitation will increase your earning capacity
In many cases, you’ll be asked to make a good-faith effort to seek employment on your own. If it turns out that your search was unsuccessful and that you are unable to find gainful employment, and if you can show that retraining will help you find a new line of work, then that retraining will be covered.
However, an attempt to find work isn’t a strict requirement. The law simply states that if there is evidence that you would have a better chance of earning a living wage with vocational rehab, regardless of whether you attempted to find work beforehand, then you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to cover it.
Pressure from Insurance Companies
Oftentimes, your insurance company will provide vocational rehabilitation of their own in order to get you to find a new job. One of the main reasons why they will do this is to reduce their financial obligation to you. After all, if you are able to find work, then they no longer have to pay wage loss benefits.
On paper, this looks like it would work out in everyone’s favor, but the truth is that it’s often used to put pressure on you to find a job—any job, no matter how demeaning it is, how low the wages are, or whether it would actually benefit you in the long run.
In some cases, a vocational counselor hired by the insurance company may disregard your previous earning potential or work restrictions caused by your injury. They may insist that you take the first minimum wage job offered to you. In these cases, the retraining does not actually satisfy your rights since it no longer helps you find suitable employment to replace what you lost.
Protecting Your Rights
If you feel that you are being put under undue pressure to find employment after a workplace accident, you need to seek the assistance of a workers’ compensation attorney. A counselor hired by an insurance company may try to convince you that if you don’t follow their counsel (no matter how bad it is), you will lose your benefits. An attorney can advocate on your behalf and make sure your rights are satisfied.
For more information on vocational rehabilitation after a workplace injury, or to get legal representation, contact Hart David Carson LLP today.