Whether you work in an office in downtown Virginia Beach or at a healthcare facility in Chesapeake, you always run the risk of being injured at work. If that happens, it can prevent you from returning to work for days, weeks, or even permanently, putting you in a difficult financial situation. Without another form of income, you can eventually find yourself unable to make ends meet.
This is why Virginia has such strong workers’ compensation laws. When you are hurt at work, you are protected. Obtaining benefits can, however, be a difficult process. Completing the proper paperwork, meeting strict deadlines, and following insurance company rules and procedures are all requirements that can be overwhelming when you’re trying to recover from a serious workplace accident.
When you’ve been injured at work, a workers’ compensation lawyer can help you navigate the benefits application process and receive the payments you need to sustain yourself until you can return to work. At Poole Brooke Plumlee, we have years of experience fighting for injured workers in Virginia, so call us today to discuss your claim.
Virginia Workers’ Compensation Laws
In Virginia, most employers are required to have workers’ compensation insurance to cover their employees in the event of a work injury. Employees and employers both benefit from workers’ compensation. For the employer, it provides an exclusive remedy, shielding them from civil suits. For the injured worker, it provides cash benefits and access to medical treatment until they can return to work.
Employers who regularly employ three or more part-time or full-time employees are required by Virginia law to carry workers’ compensation coverage. In the event that a business employs subcontractors to perform the same trade, business or occupation, or to fulfill a contract, those subcontractors’ employees are included in determining the total number of employees. Employers who are required to carry coverage must do so: there are no waivers and no exceptions.
Workers’ Compensation Coverage in Virginia
To determine if a business legally requires coverage, it’s important to know who counts as an employee. According to the law, any of the following may be classified as an employee:
- Family members who work for the company
- Part-time, temporary, and seasonal workers
- Immigrant workers
- Underage workers
- Workers employed at nonprofits, churches, or charities
- Corporate officers and LLC managers, regardless of whether they are employed regularly or earning a salary
Regardless of employee type, a business must carry workers’ compensation if they have more than two employees. If that is not the case, they can be held legally responsible if anyone is injured on the job.
When To File a Workers’ Compensation Claim
You may file a workers’ compensation claim if your injury or illness occurred while you were working, either on or offsite. An injury must have occurred while performing a work activity at a specific time to be covered by workers’ compensation. Anything that occurred gradually is not covered.
Based on the National Safety Council’s report, the top causes of workplace injuries in 2020 were:
- Exposure to harmful substances or environments (36.7% of all injuries or illnesses requiring time away from work)
- Overexertion due to activities like repetitive motions and lifting objects (22%)
- Slips, trips, and falls (18%)
- Contact with objects and equipment (17%)
- Transportation incidents (3%)
- Violence due to other people or animals (3%)
The International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health published a study in 2020 that analyzed a large insurance program over several years in every state. It identified the following top five individual worker’s compensation injuries:
- Strains (30.06% of claims): Strains are caused when a tendon or muscle is torn or stretched. A worker can suffer this type of injury by performing repetitive tasks (e.g., lifting, pushing, or pulling heavy items; working in a manner that results in an awkward posture, or reaching overhead). According to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission’s Annual Report for 2020, strains were the leading cause of work-related injuries in the Commonwealth.
- Contusions (20.83% of claims): Contusions occur when the body experiences bruising after a bump or a fall. Most bruises are not cause for concern, but severe pain, swelling, or bruising within 30 minutes of sustaining an injury is an indication of a more serious problem.
- Lacerations (11.79% of claims): Lacerations can occur if a worker uses an improper tool or a tool that is kept in poor condition. Machines with missing parts or improperly adjusted guards can also cause lacerations. Poor lighting and clutter can also contribute to lacerations.
- Sprains (8.85% of claims): A sprain occurs when a ligament is torn or stretched. As with strains, sprains can also occur as a result of repetitive tasks like lifting, pushing, or pulling heavy items, or reaching overhead.
- Punctures (5.50% of claims): Puncture wounds can occur when workers handle tools such as knives or scissors, or items such as nails, glass, or splintered surfaces. Using dull tools and handling metal shards and broken glass improperly metal shards.
Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation Benefits Explained
If your claim is compensable, Virginia workers’ compensation benefits can cover your medical treatment, pay a portion of your wages, and even provide death benefits if the injury or illness proves fatal.
Workers’ comp pays for all authorized and medically necessary care related to your injury. This includes but may not be limited to:
- An authorized primary care physician and specialist(s) as needed
- Reimbursement for travel to and from your authorized doctor
- Tests and treatments such as prescription drugs, physical therapy, hospitalization, and prostheses.
Temporary Disability Benefits
To make up for some of your lost wages during your recovery, you may be eligible for two types of temporary disability benefits.
- Temporary Total Disability: If your doctor determines that you cannot work because of a work-related injury or illness, you may be entitled to compensation equal to 66 2/3% of your regular wages for the 52 weeks preceding your injury. There is a statewide maximum reimbursement amount.
- Temporary Partial Disability: If the doctor says you can return to work with restrictions, you may be eligible for Temporary Partial Disability Benefits to supplement any lost wages due to your restricted work status.
The first seven calendar days of disability are not compensated, but if the incapacity continues beyond those seven days, compensation will begin on the eighth day. After 21 days of incapacity, compensation for the first seven days of incapacity will be paid.
Permanent Disability Benefits
There are two types of disability benefits available for injuries that are permanently disabling.
- Permanent Partial Disability Benefits: You may be evaluated for an impairment rating when your doctor declares that your injury has reached a state of maximum medical improvement and that you are not expected to improve significantly. If your rating for permanent impairment is greater than or equal to 0%, you may be eligible for compensation under the Guide for Permanent Loss.
- Permanent Total Disability Benefits: You may be entitled to permanent total disability benefits if your injuries are so severe you can never return to work.
The following benefits may be payable in case of a work-related death:
- Burial expenses up to $10,000
- Reasonable transportation expenses up to $1,000
Wage replacement may be provided to a surviving spouse and/or dependent children under the age of 18 and/or under the age of 23 years old while enrolled in an accredited educational institution.
What Should I Do After a Workplace Injury?
If you’ve been injured at your workplace or while carrying out your duties, it’s important to notify your employer as soon as possible. The law states that you must inform your employer of your injury within 30 days of either the accident or receipt of a diagnosis from a qualified medical provider.
You have up to two years to file a claim with the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission (WCC), but the sooner you file your claim, the sooner you can start receiving benefits. If your claim is delayed or denied for any reason, your Virginia workers’ comp lawyer can address the underlying issues and take additional measures to recover your compensation.
Can I Choose My Own Doctor for Treatment?
You will probably need to choose a doctor from a list of approved doctors provided by your employer. This list, also known as the panel of physicians, must contain at least three physicians who are independent, meaning that they are not part of the same practice.
If there are not at least three doctors who meet these criteria, it is defective under the Workers’ Compensation Act and your employer or its insurer must present you with a new panel. If they do not, you can choose any physician you want to serve as your authorized treating physician. Your workers’ comp lawyer will confirm when you are free to make this decision.
Can I File a Personal Injury Claim for a Workplace Injury?
The workers’ compensation system protects employers from civil suits arising from workplace injury. This means that you generally can’t seek compensation via a personal injury lawsuit unless exceptional circumstances apply.
- If a co-worker assaults you at work (a criminal act), you could file an injury claim against your attacker and possibly your employer if they failed to prevent the attack.
- You could sue for gross negligence if the employer knowingly exposed you to a dangerous condition that wasn’t part of your routine duties.
- If a third party, such as a vendor or customer, causes your injuries at work, you may be able to file a personal injury claim against them.
Your lawyer can advise you whether you have a workers’ comp or personal injury case.
How Can Your Firm Help Me With My Workers’ Compensation Claim?
The workers’ compensation system in Virginia is designed to protect and assist injured workers. However, these laws are amended and updated frequently, so knowing your rights after an accident at work isn’t always straightforward. This is one of the many reasons why a workers’ comp lawyer can be a huge asset when you’re claiming the benefits you deserve.
Your workers’ compensation attorney at Poole Brooke Plumlee will help you-
- Understand what legal benefits you may be entitled to
- Fill out the required documents
- Gather medical documentation
One of the most challenging aspects of a victim’s claim for benefits is proving disability. Insurance companies often deny benefits if an injured party can perform virtually any job. In workers’ compensation cases, this position may cause havoc on your life and financial wellbeing. Your workers’ comp lawyer will help you argue against a claim denial and fight for the compensation you need.
Contact a Workers’ Compensation Today
If you are searching for fair and full compensation for your on-the-job injuries, get in touch with Poole Brooke Plumlee today. We are happy to provide you with a no-cost consultation, followed by legal representation that can get your physical and financial recovery started more quickly. To learn more, please call us or use our contact form.