Rehabbing A Workplace Injury – Vocational Rehabilitation In Louisiana Workers’ Compensation Cases
When a worker is injured on the job and is permanently or partially disabled and unable to work, there are many questions the worker likely has about what to do next and how they will survive. Fortunately, under Louisiana workers’ compensation laws, employees who have been injured at the workplace and who are unable to work are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. There are several different benefits that injured Louisiana workers are entitled to under workers’ compensation laws, including wage replacement and compensation for medical expenses and medical treatment. A third benefit that Louisiana workers are entitled to under workers’ compensation laws is vocational rehabilitation. While vocational rehabilitation is technically a benefit for employees under the workers’ compensation system, importantly, the employer and employer’s insurance company are involved in the vocational rehabilitation process. Therefore, injured workers should be aware of the impacts of vocational rehabilitation on other workers’ compensation benefits.
What is Vocational Rehabilitation?
Vocational rehabilitation is a service through the workers’ compensation system that aims to get injured workers back to work. Through vocational rehabilitation, injured workers are evaluated by a Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor who works with the injured worker to find jobs that the worker can do, considering the limitations of the workers’ work-related injuries. Under the Louisiana statute that governs workers’ compensation, “[w]hen an employee has suffered an injury…which precludes the employee from earning wages equal to wages earned prior to the injury, the employee shall be entitled to prompt rehabilitation services. Vocational rehabilitation services shall be provided by a licenses professional vocational rehabilitation counselor, and all such services provided shall be compliant with the code of Professional Ethics for Licensed Rehabilitation Counselors….” The law further states that “[t]he goal of rehabilitation services is to return a worker with a disability to work, with a minimum of retraining, as soon as possible after an injury occurs.”
Impacts of Vocational Rehabilitation
As established by the Louisiana workers’ compensation law, injured workers are entitled to vocational rehabilitation services by a licensed vocational rehabilitation counselor. These counselors are required to follow a code of ethics regarding their work. However, it is important for injured workers to keep in mind that vocational rehabilitation counselors are selected and paid for by the workers’ compensation insurance company selected by the employer, and that the employer and insurance company have their own motivations to see the injured worker return to work. As an added level of consideration to this issue, under Louisiana workers’ compensation laws, while injured workers can request vocational rehabilitation services on their own, they are required to participate in vocational rehabilitation if the employer’s insurance company requires it.
What to do if You are Required to Participate in Vocational Rehabilitation Services
If your employer’s insurance company is requiring you to participate in vocational rehabilitation services, or you are interested in learning more about vocational rehabilitation services in your pending or potential workers’ compensation case, it is best to reach out to an experienced attorney to discuss your rights and options. Contact the experienced Louisiana workers’ compensation lawyers at Lunsford Baskin & Priebe, PLLC, today to speak to a lawyer about your workers’ compensation case and to see if they can help.