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What happens if I cannot return to work?

In some circumstances, the employee’s injury is permanent and so severe that they are unable to return to their previous position or ones similar to it.  This can often happen in cases of a severe back injury, shoulder injury, knee injury, or other muscular injuries where the employee’s work history is one of manual, physical labor.

In these situations, the law provides for something called vocational rehabilitation, which allows the employee to be re-trained for a new line of work, or re-assigned.  This allows the injured employee to still work and provide for their family, even though they suffered a career-ending injury.

In these cases, the goal is always to get the employee to do the most similar type of job that they are physically able to do, and, ideally, with the same employer.  For example, if an employee works in manufacturing, and a physical injury prevents them from being able to lift and to stand for extended periods of time, they will be re-trained and re-assigned to perform work that they can do sitting down, perhaps in quality control, or some other department at the company.

A vocational counselor is necessary to put together a plan and submit to the Workers’ Compensation Court for approval.  Counselors are chosen by agreement of the employer and injured employee.  If the employer and employee cannot agree upon a counselor (which is sometimes the case) either party may ask the Workers’ Compensation Court to appoint a counselor.  You should never agree to the appointment of a counselor without consulting an attorney.

Sometimes retraining is the only option.  Fortunately, under an approved plan, Nebraska law provides for payment of tuition, books mileage and temporary total disability payments while participating.  As you might suspect, some insurance companies fight these plans in order to save money.  Therefore it is important to discuss your particular circumstances with a workers’ compensation attorney before you pursue a plan.

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