Can I get Re-Trained so I can Earn What I Used to Earn Before My Accident?
Do you simply want a new job within your physical abilities following the disabling on the job injury? Do you want the opportunity to embark upon a new career following your recovery from the injury? Do you want to be retrained received additional education with the goal in mind of earning what you earned before you were injured? Would you rather skip the training or education and just earn what you are able to earn and receive a weekly wage differential, thinking you’ll be winning by making the insurance company pay? The choice is yours. Not receiving additional education and/or training may prove to be a missed opportunity. Only you can decide what’s best for you.
I recently handled a case in which an electrician was seriously injured and could no longer perform his trade. While his claim was being challenged, he took it upon himself to seek help from a vocational rehabilitation program, designed a new career strategy with a counselor and enrolled in college to become a Certified Public Accountant.
Ultimately, the arbitrator for the Illinois Workers Compensation Commission heard the case. The arbitrator reviewed his grades, considered the favorable comments of the electrician’s vocational counselor, and considered that the injured worker could earn more money as a CPAthan an electrician and awarded the injured electrician a full four-year education.
He could have worked at a $10-15 per hour job and received wage loss benefits to make up for his lost income as an electrician. However, the Worker’s Compensation Commission, in siding with the injured electrician, agreed it is better for society to educate the disabled worker and assist him in embarking on a new career. That is the intent of the Workers’ Compensation laws; to eliminate the wage loss where possible and educate the worker so that a person can earn a living wage, not be dependent on an insurance company or society, and go on with their lives in a fulfilling and independent way.
In addition to retroactive wage benefits and medical expenses, the arbitrator ordered that our client’s full four-year college degree be paid, as well as, the costs involved with becoming a Certified Public Accountant. Our client’s injury forced a change in the direction he was going, but because he was able to look at his future through a wide lens not bound by the limitations of his injury or prior education level, he avoided the pitfalls of a dead-end settlement that wouldn’t serve his or his family’s future in the long run.
Not all injuries are conducive to returning to school. If it is a career ending injury, the choice of a good vocational rehabilitation plan and the possibility of education or training is always worthy of consideration. Life at a low-paying job, even with wage differential from the insurance company, is for some, hardly worth calling “living”.
While the arbitrator’s decision was not a common one, it demonstrates that the system can work to make the injured worker whole in the right situation.