Bob had worked as a hands-on supervisor for many years without ever missing a day of work. Bob\’s luck ran out when he was struck in the neck by a two-by-four causing a herniated disc. Bob underwent surgery and had a fusion performed. The owner of the company made it clear to Bob that unless Bob came back to work quickly, there might not be a job for Bob to come back to since Bob would have to be replaced.
Bob did not want to lose his job. Against his doctor\’s orders, he returned to work just two weeks after the surgery was performed. Within several days, despite Bob\’s precautions, Bob started to experience excruciating pain. He returned to his doctor only to find that the fusion that the doctor had performed had come undone. Unquestionably, the problem was caused by Bob\’s premature return to work activities.
Bob requested to be placed back on compensation but the insurance carrier for Bob\’s employer refused stating that Bob\’s re-injury was caused by his own negligence and failure to follow his own doctor\’s orders.
ISSUE: Will Bob be entitled to a reinstatement of compensation?
ANSWER: Most likely, yes. In some circumstances, when an injured worker is noncompliant with his doctor\’s orders, this may provide the employer with a defense to compensation payments. In this type of situation, however, the Court will likely understand that Bob was under tremendous economic pressure and, in fact, Bob’s employer was applying that pressure for Bob to return as soon as possible to his former position. Bob will be entitled to a reinstatement of his compensation benefits and this time Bob will follow his doctor\’s orders and make sure enough time passes so his neck heals properly.
Disclaimer: The above article is for instructive purposes only and each case is fact sensitive. Consultation with an attorney should be obtained instead of reliance upon the legal issues discussed in this column.