Mississippi College Law Review

Publication Date

Fall 2022


In 2019, the National Safety Council estimated that the total economic cost of work-related deaths and injuries in the United States was $171,000,000,000 and the amount of workdays lost due to these deaths and injuries was 105,000,000 days.1 On average, for every day of work missed by a worker due to a work-related death or injury, the total economic loss was over $1,600 per worker. Therefore, any time a worker is injured on the job, the overarching goal for both the employer and the employee should be for the worker to return to work as soon as is safely possible to help mitigate the economic loss to both the company and society as a whole, right?

Employers suffer both direct and indirect costs when a worker suffers a work-related death or injury and is forced to miss time from work. Direct costs are those covered by workers’ compensation insurance. Indirect costs are all uninsured additional costs associated with an accident. Indirect costs can be two to ten times more expensive than direct costs to an employer. Additionally, indirect costs are uninsured and come directly from the employer’s pocket.7 A few examples of indirect costs are productive time lost by an injured worker, time to hire or train a worker to replace the injured worker until they return to work, and reduced morale among employees.8 These are all indirect costs that can be mitigated by having an injured worker return to work as soon as it is safely possible.

Additionally, studies have shown that returning to work is beneficial to the physical and mental health of an injured worker.9 Despite all of these reasons for having an injured worker return to work as soon as is safely possible, a recent change in the Workers’ Compensation law in Mississippi has discouraged injured workers from returning to work as soon as they are cleared by a doctor. Instead, the law forces the injured worker to wait until they reach maximum medical improvement before returning to work if the worker is to have any hope of receiving permanent disability benefits.

The reason for this absurdity is found in a recent Mississippi Supreme Court decision. The court applied a rebuttable presumption that an injured worker suffered no loss of wage-earning capacity when she returned to work at the same (or greater) pay she received before the injury even though she had not reached maximum medical improvement. Historically, this presumption had only been applied after an injured worker reached maximum medical improvement and healing was complete. Currently, a worker who has been medically cleared to return to work need not do so until he reaches maximum medical improvement if he wishes to receive permanent disability benefits (if the need for such benefits arises). If that injured worker returns to work, he will automatically be presumed to have suffered no loss of wage-earning capacity and will be saddled with the burden of proof to show rebutted evidence.

This Comment will analyze and discuss the rebuttable presumption in Mississippi Workers’ Compensation law that an injured worker who returns to work at the same position with the same (or greater) pay as before his or her workplace-related injury has suffered no loss of wage-earning capacity. Specifically, this Comment will explain why this presumption should only be applicable if the injured worker returns to work after he or she has reached maximum medical improvement. Section II will provide a background to this rebuttable presumption as well as on Workers’ Compensation law in Mississippi. Section III will discuss why the rebuttable presumption should only be applied if the worker returns to work after he or she has reached maximum medical improvement.



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