Imagine an individual is hurt at work and receives a call from someone identifying him/herself as the Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant (QRC) assigned to the individual’s case. The usual immediate reaction is, “What is a QRC?”
A QRC is a Minnesota Department of Labor and Industry-approved independent service provider who acts as a case manager of sorts for employees who are receiving workers’ compensation benefits. The QRC’s fundamental function is to help the injured employee return to work and earn his/her previous wage as soon as possible. In those cases where the employee is unable to return to his/her previous job due to substantial physical restrictions or other problems, the QRC will help the injured worker obtain another job with a salary as close to the prior wage as possible.
Of primary importance is despite the “independent” tag, the employer’s insurance company typically pays for the QRC’s services and, therefore, the QRC is not on the injured worker’s side but is simply trying to protect the insurance company’s profits. In many cases, the insurance company’s claims adjuster will simply assign a QRC chosen from a short list of oft-used and insurance company friendly ones. QRCs are commonly assigned based upon location and/or experience with specific types of injuries; however, in many cases, QRCs are assigned because they have proven experience closing cases quickly and as inexpensive as possible.
It is critical that injured workers know all of their options, including how to choose a Qualified Rehabilitation Consultant.
What, Exactly, Does a QRC Do?
QRCs are responsible for an injured worker’s medical management and vocational care so the injured employee ultimately obtains suitable gainful employment—whether with his/her original employer or another. QRCs provide myriad services such as:
- Accompanying the injured worker to medical appointments for clarification on specific work restrictions
- Communicating with the employer to see what can be done so the injured worker can return to work within the restriction’s parameters
- Completing required documentation and paperwork for the insurance company, employer, and other attorneys
- Supporting the injured worker’s efforts in locating a new job
- Helping the injured worker find retraining options, if applicable
- Assisting the injured worker with updating his/her resume, filling out job logs, preparing for interviews, and any other aspect of securing new employment
Obtaining One’s Own QRC
Minnesota law specifies that an injured worker has the right to select his/her own QRC; however, as would be expected, there are several time-sensitive considerations and limitations. If the insurance company assigns an injured employee a QRC, that individual has 60 days to either accept or reject that person and the individual does not have to provide any reason for his/her choice. The insurance company cannot reject or refuse the request without breaking the law.
Similar to employers’ insurance companies, knowledgeable and experienced workers’ compensation lawyers also have a list of QRCs with whom they have experience and who they trust to ensure the injured worker is properly cared for.
Using an objective and unbiased QRC is critical for numerous reasons. A QRC who is on the injured worker’s side can:
- Address all potential injuries and problems
- Help prevent the employee from returning to work too early
- Work with the worker’s physician to devise possible strategies for managing restrictions at work or to find retraining options
However, a QRC who is working for the insurance company can adversely affect the injured worker’s case by:
- Downplaying injuries
- Asking the worker’s physician to reduce or eliminate work restrictions
- Urging the worker’s physician to provide a premature release to return to work
- Failing to consider and advocate for the injured worker’s rights
Perhaps the biggest concern involves injured workers who do not have legal representation who are ultimately assigned a QRC by the insurance company. Absent prior experience with QRCs, many people do not know where to find one, or one s/he would trust to handle his/her case properly. Not unlike the right of injured workers to choose their medical providers and services, selecting a QRC is also the worker’s right.
Experts recommend contacting an experienced workers’ compensation attorney as soon as the employer’s insurance company assigns a QRC, if not sooner. For more information on this topic, or if you or a loved one are in need of a QRC, please contact us.