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The Notice Of Ability to Return to Work Form: Does It Mean I Need to Return To Work?

In a word, no.  The workers’ compensation insurance company is required by law, when it receives medical evidence that an injured worker can return to work in any capacity, to provide prompt written notice to an injured worker advising the following: the nature of the injured worker’s physical condition or change in condition; that the injured worker has an obligation to look for available employment; that proof of available employment may jeopardize the injured worker’s right to receive ongoing benefits; and that the injured worker has the right to consult with an attorney.  This information is sent to an injured worker on a Bureau of Workers Compensation Form, called a “Notice of Ability to Return to Work” (FORM LIBC 757).

The Notice of Ability to Return to Work form is an advisory document.  It will tell the injured worker that a doctor has released you to some form of modified duty or that you are fully recovered from your work injury.  The source of the information is crucial when determining what to do in response to The Notice of Ability to Return to Work.  Often the opinion of full recovery or the release to return to work at modified duty will come from the insurance company doctor who has performed an independent medical examination (IME) or treated the injured worker at an occupational health facility. Importantly, you do not have to return to work simply because you are told that a doctor feels you can return to modified duty, full duty or because you have been determined to be fully recovered, particularly when the source of that opinion is the insurance company doctor.

It is also important to remember that before a workers’ compensation insurance company can take some action adverse to the interest of the injured worker, the workers’ compensation insurance company must issue the Notice of Ability to Return to Work.  For instance, before a light duty job can be offered, the Notice of Ability to Return to Work form must be issued.  Likewise, before a Petition to Terminate Compensation Benefits can be filed, a Notice of Ability to Return to Work form must be issued.  The workers’ compensation insurance company relies upon the doctors utilized for an IME or at occupational health facilities to issue favorable opinions about an injured worker’s ability to return to work so a Notice of Ability to Return to Work can be issued and the process of reducing, stopping or terminating the injured worker’s benefits can begin.

If you receive a Notice of Ability to Return to Work, understand that the workers’ compensation insurance company may be developing a strategy to take some action against your interests.  It is also important to understand you have the ability to receive other medical opinions from your own doctor concerning your work capabilities and need for additional treatment, and the opinion of the insurance company doctor is simply an opinion, nothing more.

Jonathan B. Koutcher, Esquire
PearsonKoutcher, LLP
Email Jon: Jon@pearsonkoutcherlaw.com