Employer Allowed Me to Return to Work Full Duty Without a Doctor's Note...

by Becky
(New Jersey)

I was out of work a short time about 1 year ago due to Spondylolisthesis in my lumbar spine. I work in a field that requires a lot of lifting, turning, etc. I was eventually able to return to work on light duty - only lifting up to 5 lbs. My back began to feel better over time and I was put on a low dose of pain medication and muscle relaxant.

My employer forgot to follow-up with it and allowed me to return to work full duty with no restrictions without a doctor's note releasing me from the light duty that was ordered. I have been working almost a year with no return note. Now I am having major back issues again after a fall at work that resulted in a concussion and whiplash. This fall also involves possible premise liability due to a wet floor from mopping.

Does my employer hold any fault if my back injury worsens for allowing me to return to work full duty without a doctor's note releasing me from the light duty restrictions?

I understand part of it is also my fault since I did not follow up with the doctor after my second appointment (I was feeling better). Work never asked for a note from me and I assumed I had been approved for return to full duty as that is what they allowed. What is the percentage of liability of my employer in this situation? Thank you.

Visitor Question:
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ANSWER for "Employer Allowed Me to Return to Work Full Duty Without a Doctor's Note...":

Becky (New Jersey):

The question of liability is subject to various factors. The primary factor is whether or not your Spondylolisthesis is a result of a heredity component. Spondylolysis runs in families and is passed down from generation to generation. If your Spondylolysis is hereditary your employer may escape all or part of any liability.

If you don't suffer from Spondylolysis and your Spondylolisthesis is a result of a work related injury you are going to run into a problem assessing liability against your employer.

Your employer's liability may be questionable because you could have followed up with the doctor and failed to. It can be implied when you returned to work you had already recovered from your injury. It wasn't your employer's duty to follow up and get a "Note" from your doctor. The responsibility was yours.

Finally, your biggest problem will be proving your Spondylolisthesis is directly related to your first injury. It can be reasonable assumed your latest injury may have resulted in a new and distinct form of back injury. You won't know until you are subjected to a CAT Scan, MRI, X-ray, or other examination which can determine if your latest complaints are new or an exacerbation of your primary injury.

The above is general information. Laws change frequently, and across jurisdictions. You should get a personalized case evaluation from an attorney licensed in your state. Find a local attorney to give you a free case review here, or call (888) 647-2490.

Best of luck,

Judge Calisi

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