What Does A Notice Of Ability To Return To Work Mean In A Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Case?

At least once a week, I get a call from a client asking me what this documents means. The document I am referring to is called “Notice Of Ability To Return To Work“.  This is a form sent to an injured worker in Pennsylvania, required by Section 306(b) (3) of the PA Work Comp Act, informing an injured worker that the insurer has received medical evidence that the employee is able to return to work in some capacity. Whether it’s an insurance company doctor or a treating doctor, the insurer is almost always required to send this notice out if the physician deems the worker to be capable of work, with or without restrictions. (it is not required in some limited circumstances such as when a petition to modify is based on surveillance evidence showing an imputed earning power vs a change in medical condition).

Many injured workers receive this notice and interpret it to mean that they are being asked to return to work. This is not the case. Standing alone, the Notice of Ability To Return To Work is simply what it says- a notice. If the Employer contends that it has work available within the physician’s restrictions, then it will usually send an official job offer letter, or at a minimum, make a call.

The Notice of Ability To Return To Work will state not only what work the physician deems appropriate, but also some other boilerplate language such as reminding the worker than she has an obligation to look for available employment, that proof of available employment may jeopardize the employee’s rights to the receipt of ongoing benefits, etc.

The insurers, upon receiving medical records indicating that the worker can work in some capacity, even with many limitations, must send this Notice, if it wishes to file a petition seeking to modify or suspend an employee’s benefits based on the doctor’s opinions. And, it must be sent promptly. What detemines if the notice is sent promptly is determined on a case by case basis. If the insurer fails to send this document, the injured worker will be able to argue that any pending petition (ie, a Petition to Modify or Suspend benefits) based upon the change in physican condition (ie, the opinion by a doctor that she can now do certain kinds of work) should be dismissed.

What should an injured worker in Pennsylvania do when she receives a Notice Of Ability To Return To Work? The best answer is speak to an experienced Pennsylvania Work Comp Attorney as soon as possible. This Notice usually means a Petition to reduce benefits is coming down the pike. You will need to speak to a work comp lawyer to analyze your case and to gather any evidence which may conflict with the allegations and opinions in the Notice of Ability To Return To Work.

For more information about Pennsylvania Work Comp Law, call or email Michael Cardamone at 215-206-9068 or MyPhillyWorkersComp@Gmail.com

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