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Returning to Work After a Concussion: Treatment & Workers’ Compensation

Man holds hands on his head after suffering from a concussion.

Roughly 1 in 4 mild traumatic brain injuries (MTBIs) happen while at work. Workplace brain injuries often result in substantial loss of productivity, economic stress, long-term symptoms, and disability.

Workers who suffer a head injury on the job are almost always eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. To ensure you receive the benefits you are entitled to, it is best to notify your supervisor or employer of your traumatic brain injury as soon as possible and then contact a Georgia workers’ compensation lawyer to discuss your case for free.

Concussion Treatment

After notifying your employer about your concussion and any other injuries suffered on the job, you may be eligible to file a workers’ compensation claim with the State Board of Workers’ Compensation. Getting workers’ compensation means can receive medical expense coverage, weekly checks for lost wages, and permanent partial disability benefits.

Once the claim is approved, you can begin treatment with a workers’ compensation doctor (also known as the authorized treating physician). Tell the doctor about all your symptoms and pain so they can accurately diagnose your injuries. They will most likely refer you to a concussion specialist for MTBI treatment.

A concussion specialist will perform an in-depth neurological examination to determine the severity of the traumatic brain injury. Imaging technology, such as CT scans and MRIs, often can’t detect the microscopic damage caused by concussions. Instead, the physician determines concussion severity by interviewing the patient and having them perform cognitive tasks to understand what areas of the brain are affected. They will also provide best practices and follow-up care to help patients recover.

If you have workers’ compensation, all of the necessary costs for concussion treatment are passed on to your employer’s insurance company. Any medical bills associated with emergency medical treatment for the traumatic brain injury are also retroactively included in your workers’ compensation treatment plan.

Should You Go to Work With a Concussion?

Absolutely not. Until you know the full severity of your brain injury, you should not return to work. There are two important reasons why returning to work soon after a concussion without an adequate diagnosis or treatment is a terrible idea:

  1. Trying to tough out the injury can backfire. If it turns out your concussion symptoms are more severe than anticipated and you try to file for workers’ compensation later, the insurance company may argue that you are exaggerating your injuries or that an event outside of work caused the concussion. There is also the statute of limitations: in most cases, if you wait more than 30 days to report a work injury, you forfeit your right to file a work-injury claim.
  2. The chances of re-injury and suffering a second concussion are higher. One concussion is enough to seriously impair a person for months or years of their life, especially if they go without treatment. Suffering a second concussion when you haven’t recovered from the first can cause truly devastating neurological consequences, such as severe mental disabilities, rapid neurodegeneration, and even death.

Do not risk your health by returning to work while suffering from post-concussion symptoms. Consult with a doctor and work on a treatment plan that allows you to re-enter the workforce at your own pace.

How Long Should You Take Off Work Because of a Concussion?

The amount of time a concussion victim needs to take off work depends on the severity and location of their brain injury. An MTBI takes 2-3 months on average to fully recover from, while a more severe traumatic brain injury may require even longer.

Treatment requires plenty of rest and avoiding overstimulating or stressful activities. A patient may have to attend multiple appointments a week with various neuropsychiatrists, physiatrists, and occupational and physical therapists.

Returning to work too soon could aggravate a brain injury and delay healing. In a worst-case scenario, a victim reinjures themselves and suffers another concussion or serious injury.

Only when you and your treating doctors agree that you are well enough to tackle the mental and physical strains of work should you make plans to return to your job.

When Should You Return to Work After a Concussion?

There is no one-size-fits-all treatment plan when it comes to brain injury recovery. Returning to work part-time or full-time should be up to the workers’ comp doctor treating your symptoms.

A person should not return to work until their treating doctor evaluates and clears them to re-enter the workforce. The return to work should be done slowly; the injured worker must carefully monitor their symptoms and report any issues to their doctor and supervisor.

Many workers who suffer mild traumatic brain injuries are able to return to work after a few months. Others, however, are only able to work part-time or are unable to work at all. They may struggle with one or more disabilities, such as sensitivity to lights and noises or reduced motor control.

Post-concussion syndrome (concussion symptoms that last more than four weeks) affects a significant number of brain injury victims. They often cannot return to work for an extended period or must find alternative employment that can accommodate their new situation.

This is yet another reason why filing for workers’ compensation benefits is so important. Costs can add up, and it may take far longer to recuperate than expected. Workers’ compensation provides a financial safety net for victims and their families to rely on during this transitional period.

Occupational Therapy

If traumatic brain injury at work results in serious or permanent changes to speech, cognition, or vestibular abilities, an occupational therapist can help a patient adjust and adapt to these new limitations. Their goal is to help a person live the best life possible and lessen concussion symptom severity.

An occupational therapist can teach patients multisensory exercises to engage the brain and help it recover. Patients can continue these rehabilitation regimens at home after treatment has concluded.

In most cases, concussion patients see significant symptom improvement after just a few weeks of post-concussion therapy.

Workers’ Compensation Settlement for a Concussion

Going through treatment for a concussion and dealing with the symptoms of a traumatic brain injury is exhausting enough on its own. Many victims struggle to perform basic domestic tasks, can’t operate a vehicle, and suffer from mood swings and sensory issues.

To ask them to take on the task of filing a workers’ compensation claim and fighting the insurance company’s legion of lawyers and adjusters is often too much to bear. That’s where an experienced Atlanta workers’ compensation lawyer is needed.

An injured worker suffering from a concussion has enough to worry about without adding time-consuming legal paperwork into the mix. Let our team of workers’ comp experts handle the red tape while you focus on recovering from your injuries.

We know the Georgia workers’ compensation system inside and out. Our legal team can cut through the insurance company’s paper-thin excuses to ensure you get all the benefits and financial support you need to take care of yourself and your family.

Give Gary Martin Hays & Associates a call today at (770) 934-8000 for a free consultation regarding your workers’ compensation concussion case.

To learn more about what your rights and benefits are under Georgia’s workers’ compensation system, check out these other articles:

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