The End of Medical Treatment

Here’s the quirky thing about medical treatment and workers compensation claims – injured workers feel like they have to keep seeing a doctor, keep asking for more treatment, requesting another diagnostic study, or another course of physical therapy- even when their condition is not really changing. It is natural to think that as long as you have an open claim, you must be seeking out medical treatment. Doctors fall into this trap as well. The injured worker follows up every 4 to 6 weeks, the medical provider chats for a few minutes, does a brief exam, and says, ‘keep doing what you’re doing, and come back next month’.
But the truth is, medical conditions stabilize. Home exercise programs take over for therapy, new diagnostic studies don’t show anything new, and your exam is the same from visit to visit. When treatment ends, or should end, does that mean your workers’ compensation claim is over? In truth, the end of medical treatment most often signals a change in the focus of a claim, but not necessarily an abrupt end to benefits.
If your treatment is winding down, regardless of whether you feel like you are 100% back to where you were before your injury, it is time to start thinking about a return to work. That can be scary, and employers are not always as helpful as they could be, requiring a full release or not accommodating even simple changes in job duties. It’s scary because some injured workers are not going back to work at their jobs of injury, and that can mean starting all over. It feels overwhelming and uncertain. It’s hard to know where to start or where to turn for help.
There are complex questions involved when an injured worker reaches maximum medical improvement but has not already returned to work. Can the worker return to regular duties? What if specific job requirements were modified? Does the employer have some alternative position the worker could perform? Can the worker use transferable job skills in a new area of employment? Does the worker need help with job search, resume writing or interview techniques? Will retraining help?
Even if your claim has been smooth sailing while you were getting medical treatment, conflicts and disputes often arise when treatment stops and return to work becomes the focus of claims management. This may be the right time to get legal assistance, or at least ask questions of someone with some expertise in worker’s compensation claims. A good attorney can help you figure out what’s next, and head in that direction.
While it may feel safer to keep your head down, and ask your doctor about more therapy, you will be better off in the long run if you look up, ask questions, and take control of the decisions surrounding your return to work.

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