Dealing with a work-related injury can be taxing for more reasons than just the injury itself. Work injuries disrupt your routine, add a lot of bureaucratic paperwork to navigate, and can even affect your mood or mental health.
These factors may lead injured workers to wonder whether they can return to some type of work, even if it’s not with the company or job they had prior to their injuries. At Pond Lehocky Stern Giordano, we wanted to answer this common question so workers know what to do if they find themselves in this situation.
So, can you work a second job while collecting benefits?
The short answer is no. Workers receive workers’ compensation benefits because they are injured, and unable to perform their usual job duties. If you are physically capable of working a second job, then it may be determined that you are able to return to your current job or that you are capable of finding employment somewhere else.
The long answer is that the issue is complicated. We’ll get into some of the issues that may arise.
What if you already had a second job?
If you had a second job for another employer at the time of your injury, your workers’ compensation benefits may either completely cover or partially cover the loss of the second income.
It’s best to get ahead of this issue when filing your claim for workers’ compensation benefits. Any income you received at the time of your injury should be reported in your claim.
Say you also had a part-time job while you were injured working at your full-time job. If your injury prevents you from working that part-time job as well, the workers’ compensation benefits may cover the total income you would usually receive from the two jobs.
This process, however, is difficult to navigate. It may be best to consult a workers’ compensation lawyer to help you find the best plan of action for your unique situation.
What if you’re still able to work your second job?
This issue comes up frequently when discussing the issue of having two jobs and being injured at the primary job. This job may be less labor-intensive or physically demanding. It may be shorter hours. It may be in a different industry entirely, and does not require the same physical tools.
Whatever the reason for your ability to work one job and not the other, an insurance company is likely to account for it. Your benefits may be adjusted in light of a second income.
This raises another more critical issue. Your ability to work the second job may affect the success of your claim. Your employer could claim that the responsibilities of the second job are evidence that you are capable of working your primary job. If this is the case, it’s possible that your benefits will be cut off.
The following example may shed more light on the situation:
Let’s say your primary job, the job your where your injury took place, is in a labor-intensive industry like construction and your part-time job is as a landscaper. An employer may look at those two jobs and determine that if you are capable of physical landscaping work, you should be capable of construction work.
Being able to perform your part-time duties likely requires the same physical demands — standing for long periods of time, lifting machinery, or bending over frequently.
If the jobs require a different set of skills or physical effort, such as construction versus office work, then you may be able to continue doing the office work while collecting benefits. However, like we mentioned before, those benefits may be scaled down to account for the additional income.
What if you want to obtain a second job?
Typically, this is not in your best interest. Whether your injury keeps you out of your primary job for the short-term, long-term, or permanently, a second job could either lessen your benefits or put them in jeopardy entirely.
It’s best to stay out of the workforce and give yourself time to recover.
What if I get a second job that pays ‘under the table’?
Put simply, if you are collecting workers’ compensation benefits, you must report any additional income. In most cases, not reporting income will be considered insurance fraud.
Insurance carriers are very familiar with these practices, and have many methods in place to ensure that claimants are not “fooling” the system. For example, if you are suspected of working an additional job and not reporting income, investigators may be watching and collecting evidence to prove you are doing this.
Additionally, any other person can report this activity either directly to a carrier or to the appropriate government agency.
It’s not worth the risk. If the insurance company determines that you are collecting income and not reporting, your benefits can be taken away and legal action can be taken against you.
Laws differ in each state
This guideline lays out the general rules governing working while receiving workers’ compensation benefits; however, laws vary by state.
In some cases, if a worker is released to light duty, he or she may seek out an appropriate job and still receive benefits, but that worker must still report the additional income to the insurance carrier. There are also circumstances where a worker can return to work while receiving benefits for intermittent lost time.
Like any workers’ compensation claim, it’s always best to consult a workers’ compensation attorney to find out what your options are and how you can best protect yourself against lost benefits or actions that may affect your claim.
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