Can You Go on a Vacation While on Workers’ Comp?
If you were injured on the job in California, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. Workers’ comp benefits include temporary disability, which means you can collect a portion of your income (two-thirds) while you are unable to return to work because of your injury. If you’re collecting workers’ comp temporary disability benefits, are you stuck on house arrest? Are you allowed to take a vacation, or will that impact your benefits? Read on for a discussion of going on vacation while on workers’ comp injury leave. If you’ve been hurt on the job in California, call a dedicated California workers’ comp attorney at Invictus Law.
Workers’ Comp Does Not Prevent Vacations
As a technical matter, yes: You are allowed to go on vacation while collecting workers’ comp benefits. Whether you are on temporary injury leave or are on permanent disability, you are allowed to go on vacation. Nothing in the law or your workers’ comp insurance policy says you have to spend your injury leave locked inside your house.
However, there are ways in which going on vacation can hurt your workers’ comp case. Consider very carefully whether a vacation is worth the trouble, and make sure you are very careful while traveling to avoid raising any red flags to the workers’ comp insurance provider.
A Vacation Can Draw Unwanted Attention from the Workers’ Comp Provider
Insurance providers are always on the lookout for insurance fraud. A worker who fakes an injury in order to collect unneeded benefits and use those proceeds to go on vacation would, for example, be guilty of insurance fraud.
It’s not uncommon for insurers to hire private investigators to follow workers’ comp beneficiaries to make sure they are actually injured and that their claims are justified. If the workers’ comp provider has reason to suspect you are lying about something–either the extent of your injuries or whether you were hurt at all–they are more likely to send someone to monitor you. A PI may monitor your social media presence, contact hotel or resort staff to ask questions, or even follow you in person to see how you behave.
If the PI discovers that you are not injured, or that you are less injured than you claimed, it could hurt your workers’ comp case.
The Insurer May Deny Claims or Reduce Coverage
Even if you are not committing insurance fraud, a workers’ comp insurer may use your vacation or your behavior while on vacation to reduce your coverage or deny your claims outright.
If the insurance provider sees you engaging in strenuous activities while on vacation, for example, they might think your injuries are not as severe as you claimed. They may think you are fit to return to work and thus should not continue receiving temporary disability benefits. They might think you don’t actually need coverage for certain procedures because you appear healthy enough already. In either case, your claims could be reduced or denied.
The insurer might also use it against you if they believe you are not following your doctor’s orders. Your workers’ comp coverage is contingent on you doing your best to recover so that you can get back to work. If your doctor ordered you to take it easy and the insurance provider finds out you’ve been playing tennis, hiking a mountain, or riding a roller coaster on vacation, they could decide that you are now responsible for any continuing injuries instead of your workplace being liable. They might believe you are exacerbating your injuries and prolonging your disability, and they could limit your coverage or deny your claims as a result. Even spending prolonged hours in a car or on a plane could be used against you.
The most important thing is to follow your doctor’s orders. If your doctor clears you for travel while still judging you as too injured to return to work, you’ll have evidence to rebut any negative inferences drawn by the workers’ comp provider.
Regardless, it’s usually a good idea to avoid vacations while on temporary disability. If you are going to travel, avoid posting anything on social media, and take care not to go against the doctor’s orders. Avoid strenuous activity, keep wearing your knee brace or sling, and otherwise continue to take care of your injuries.
Should You Be Looking for a New Job?
If you were seriously hurt on the job and you are unable to return to that same job permanently, you might be entitled to supplemental job displacement benefits. As a condition of receiving those benefits and your other wage replacement benefits, the insurer may require you to start looking for another job that you’d be able to perform regardless of your injuries. You’ll need to keep that search up–and keep documentation proving you’re doing your due diligence–even while on vacation. If the insurer thinks you’ve given up the search, it could affect your benefits.
If you suffered a work-related injury, illness, or disability, you need zealous, effective legal help to maximize your compensation. The diligent California workers’ comp legal team at Invictus Law is ready to help. We’re board-certified specialists in workers’ compensation. You don’t have to pay unless we recover on your behalf. Call us today for a consultation.