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What is a “Notice of Ability to Return to Work,” and How Does it Affect a Pennsylvania Work Injury Claim?

Injured workers throughout Pennsylvania may receive a document in the mail titled “Notice of Ability to Return to Work.”  Section 306(b)(3) of the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act requires that injured workers receive notice that the insurer has medical evidence indicating the employee is capable of returning to work, in some capacity.  Injured workers can interpret this notice to mean they must return to work, even if they do not feel physically capable of dong so. As a Notice, the document is providing information. It is not requiring the injured employee to return to work, but it may signify that the insurer intends to modify or suspend workers’ compensation benefits.

Once an insurance company receives medical records that indicate the worker can physically return to some sort of work, they must send this Notice if they intend to file a petition seeking to suspend or modify the injured worker’s benefits, based on the medical opinion.  These petitions stop or reduce the workers’ compensation benefits being received.

The law requires that the Notice be sent promptly, which is determined on a case by case basis.  By failing to send this Notice promptly, the insurer may face the injured worker’s defense that any pending petition based on a changed condition should be dismissed.

The type of medical information that the insurer may have received includes a medical release from their own doctor or the injured worker’s treating physician. In some cases, a Notice of Ability to Return to Work follows an Insurance Medical Examination (“IME”).  Often, the insurance carrier selects the doctor, and in certain situations, a narrow view of the work injury may justify a return to light or full-duty work.

If you disagree with the Notice of Ability to Return to Work, or if it is based on medical information provided by the employer’s doctor, and you disagree with the release, it is important to discuss returning to work with your own doctor.  By acting promptly, you can protect your rights. Since the Notice of Ability to Return to Work often means a petition to reduce benefits is to follow, it is important to gather evidence to dispute the allegations and opinions in the Notice.

To legally change your right to benefits, the employer or the insurer will be required to file a petition with a workers’ compensation judge.  Since the Notice may indicate an intention to modify benefits, it is advisable to speak with a workers’ compensation attorney soon after receiving the Notice.

At Needle Law, our workers’ compensation attorneys help injured workers pursue compensation for their workplace injuries.  We can help you or a loved one navigate the claims process and guide you in making decisions about your case. We provide a free consultation and can be reached by calling 570-344-1266 or contacting us online.

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