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There have been several occasions over my career handling personal injury cases where I’ve had a client ask me, “is it bad for my case if I go back to work?” In none of those cases do I recall thinking the client really didn’t want to go back to work after they had recovered (usually only partially at that point) from whatever injury they’d suffered. It seemed to me more of a misperception on their part as to how the personal injury “game” was played- someone along the way had told them that the insurers were going to try and treat them unfairly unless they did things to maximize their potential damages, like staying off work as long as they had any pain or limitations from their injuries.

Here’s how I’ve always answered that question. It’s almost always going to be better for your real life situation, and your legal case, if you do everything you can to get back to work as soon as you can. Better for your real life because work and routine provide purpose and stability (as well as income). Better for the legal case because it is important for a jury hearing the case to understand that the client did everything in their power to get back to being as productive as they can be.

“As soon as you can” usually means after the client’s doctors have given the green light, and don’t think the client will be doing any harm to themselves or delaying their recovery by going back to work. Sometimes, of course, going back to work is not always going back to full duties, at least not right away. Often the return to work is a gradual process, starting with light duty tasks, and gradually ramping up toward full duty, assuming the client’s injuries allow them to get back to that place. If the injuries are severe enough, this may not be possible. But ultimately this is medical decision, not a legal decision.

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About the Author

Scott A. Staples

Scott Staples came on board in 2006 as a clerk during law school, and joined the firm as an associate attorney in 2007. He was made a shareholder in the firm in 2010. Scott graduated, cum laude, from Washington State University Vancouver with a BA in English, and obtained his Juris Doctorate from Willamette University College of Law, with cum laude honors there as well. He has successfully represented clients in a variety of different types of injury cases, including auto collisions, premises liability, animal attacks, watercraft accidents, and construction site injuries. He has appeared, and won, before the Washington State Supreme Court (Weismann v. Safeco, 2012).

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