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The Work Search Rule

Whether you receive total or partial incapacity benefits depends on the extent to which you retain the ability to earn income after a work injury. If you are medically unable to work, as determined by a doctor, you are not required to look for work in order to receive total benefits. If you retain some ability to work, however, you are required to look for work in order to receive total benefits. When you are asking the Board to determine entitlement, you bear the burden of proof to show that work is unavailable in your local community as a result of the work injury.

A good work search will prove to the Board that you have made a reasonable exploration of the labor market in your community for the kind of work you are able to perform and that you are unable to obtain such work, due to the market or due to your work injury. The Board will look at the number of applications made; whether the search was undertaken in good faith; whether the search was too restrictive; whether the search was limited to employers who were not advertising available positions or whether you made good use of classified ads or other employment resources; whether the search was targeted to work you are capable of performing; whether you over-emphasized work restrictions when applying for jobs; whether you engaged in other efforts to find employment or increase prospects for employment; your personal characteristics such as age, training, education and work history; and the size of the job market in your geographic area.

Some insurance companies will hire a vocational counselor to help you with your resume and provide job leads. This is more likely if you have had one type of job your entire life and your injury prevents you from returning to that line of work. Most insurance companies will object to requests for retraining which then requires litigation. Sometimes you can obtain better services through the State of Maine, Bureau of Vocational Rehabilitation.

Failure to perform a good faith work search jeopardizes your entitlement to benefits. If the insurance company is paying without prejudice, it can reduce or discontinue your benefits by the amount it believes you can earn based on a survey of available jobs in your community. You will then have to show that you applied for such jobs and did not get them because of your injury. Performing a good faith work search, on the other hand, protects your entitlement to benefits.