There is no law that states that you’re not allowed to go on a vacation while on workers’ comp in North Carolina or South Carolina. There are a few things to consider before you do it, however. The timing, nature, and type of vacation can impact your workers’ comp claim!
As a workers’ compensation attorney, I’ve seen these kinds of situations arise, and they can cause trouble. For example, a client with an accepted claim went to a theme park and posted pictures online. She wasn’t doing anything she shouldn’t have been doing and stayed within the restrictions imposed by her doctor. But it looked bad – and that can hurt efforts to settle a workers’ compensation case.
Here’s what to consider and a checklist of some dos and don’ts of vacationing while on workers’ comp.
Should I Go on Vacation While Getting Workers’ Comp?
Consider when you’re thinking of vacationing while on workers’ comp that appearances matter.
1) Taking vacation time is okay. Even if you are approved quickly, there may be a lag in your workers’ comp benefits starting, and it’s OK to use your vacation time or PTO to help keep you afloat financially. It’s important to understand that if you use vacation time or PTO, your employer will not be required to “give back” your used vacation time if you later get paid workers’ compensation benefits.
2) Going on vacation immediately is unwise. Taking an actual vacation immediately after a workplace injury will look suspicious to an insurance company. Submitting a workers’ compensation claim and then heading to the beach the next day is not a great look. Even if the vacation was already planned and your employer knew about it, you may have medical appointments, tests, and treatment to attend in that first week.
3) Listen to the doctor. What ultimately matters most is your diagnosis. Assuming the workers’ compensation-appointed physician has examined and diagnosed your injury and prescribed a treatment plan, any time you take between doctor’s appointments may be fine, notwithstanding the restrictions you may receive. Timing a vacation while you’re receiving workers’ compensation benefits is mostly a matter of not missing treatment and medical appointments, again assuming you are complying with doctor-ordered restrictions. While there are some reasons you can miss appointments, vacations aren’t usually one of them.
Do not miss your medical obligations for a vacation. You may put your workers’ comp benefits at risk.
What Kind of Vacation Can I Take While on Workers’ Compensation?
Sitting at home and staring at the wall doesn’t help your mental health. If you’re injured and unable to work, it’s natural to think about how you’ll spend your time. Whether you’re by yourself or have a family, sitting around for weeks or months takes a toll.
As I mentioned, there’s no law against taking a vacation. There are, however, a few things to consider regarding the type of vacation you might take while you’re receiving workers’ compensation benefits and treatment.
1) Don’t exceed your physical restrictions – Your diagnosis and treatment may include restrictions that affect how you can move, what you can lift, how long you can sit or stand or walk, and so on. Packing a heavy bag, hopping in a car or on a plane, and traveling for several hours may not be in the cards.
2) Don’t play too hard – On a related note, a workers’ compensation case can be lost because an injured employee thinks that being on vacation means a vacation from their limitations. If you’re dealing with an injury that prevents you from working, don’t engage in activities that your injury should also prevent. Hiking, playing golf, diving, and even snowboarding are some we’ve heard of!
3) You may be under surveillance – That’s right. The insurer or your employer may be watching you. I’m not saying that a private investigator is flying to Hawaii to catch you surfing. But they absolutely may follow your social media posts and those of friends and family. Just know someone may be watching, whatever you do.
What You Can Do on Vacation While Receiving Workers’ Compensation Benefits
Workers’ compensation claimants are generally within their rights to get away from the stress of their situation with a relaxing vacation. Going to the beach or visiting family may be totally fine. Maybe a low-impact, restful time in the mountains. Just make sure you follow the doctor’s advice.
If you have questions or are confused about what you can or should not do, consult with a workers’ compensation attorney and your treating physician.
Dos and Don’ts – Worker’s Compensation Vacation Checklist
DO follow doctors’ orders and treatment plans.
DO try to relax, rest, and heal.
DO plan around doctor appointments and treatment.
DO consult a workers’ compensation attorney when in doubt.
DON’T exceed your restrictions while traveling to or at your destination.
DON’T miss your doctor appointments or treatments for a vacation.
DON’T post on social media in a way that undermines your case (or at all, really).
DON’T give the insurance company an opening to question the validity of your injury.
Questions? We Can Help
Above all, don’t try to tackle a workers’ compensation claim on your own, especially if you’re planning to take a vacation. We know how to help. In 2023, our firm was recognized for the eighth year in a row on U.S. News’ “Best Law Firms” list, and we received a Tier 1 ranking for workers’ compensation law.3
One of the experienced attorneys on our team can advise you, take some of the stress off your plate, and give you more peace of mind before you set off on vacation. Call us at 1-866-900-7078 or contact us online for a free case evaluation.
3 For standards of inclusion, visit bestlawyers.com.