If you were injured in a workplace accident but there were no witnesses, you may be worried that you are automatically disqualified from collecting workers’ compensation benefits. In some instances, unwitnessed injuries may pose a challenge; however, there are steps you can take to improve your chances of collecting Virginia workers’ compensation benefits.
Challenges of Unwitnessed Workplace Accidents
Workers’ compensation insurers are always looking for reasons to deny claims and unwitnessed accidents offer up the perfect reason. If your injury was unwitnessed, an employer or its insurer may deny your claim arguing that your injury did not happen at work or that you have a preexisting condition.
Unwitnessed accidents are not uncommon—people do not always work in teams or coworkers may have been busy focusing on their own duties and not paying attention. By denying your claim, the insurer forces you to meet your burden of proof. Follow the below tips to strengthen your case for workers’ comp benefits.
Strengthen Your Virginia Workers’ Compensation Case
1. Do not delay in reporting the accident. In Virginia, workplace accidents generally must be reported within 30 days of the date of injury; however, that does not mean you should delay reporting. In fact, the longer you wait to report your accident, the more suspicious an insurer will become. As soon as practically possible, report your accident and injury to your employer using the required procedures. Make sure the notice is provided in writing.
2. Record all incident details immediately and accurately. Memories fade over time, so it is crucial for the success and accuracy of your claim that you record all details of the accident as soon as possible. Information you may want to include:
- Date and time of the accident
- Location of the accident and description of the physical environment (e.g., lighting, floor conditions, equipment or furniture in the area, existence or absence of required safety equipment)
- Names of any witnesses to the accident
- Names of supervisors or managers working at the time
- Details of any conversations you had with witnesses or supervisors before, during or after the accident; include the date and time of the conversations
- Details of the medical care you received, including the name of any treating providers, injuries diagnosed, and treatments received
No detail is too small, so record everything you can. Photographs can also be helpful.
In accidents that are the result of lifting, make sure you identify the specific item you were lifting when the injury occurred. If you do not identify a specific item, or say that the injury occurred from “lifting boxes” the insurance company will likely deny your claim as injuries from repetitive motions are sometimes not considered a “work injury” by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission.
3. Seek immediate medical attention. Waiting to see a medical provider leaves the door open for others to question the existence or severity of your injuries or whether the injury took place at work. If you require emergency medical care, then seek treatment immediately. Even if you believe your injury is minimal or that you have no injury at all, you should be evaluated by a physician that is provided in the list supplied by your employer. Some injuries show up later and failure to seek treatment gives the insurance company room to deny your claim and blame your injury on other non-work causes.
Be sure to tell your doctor that the injury happened at work, and provide your doctor with the details of your accident.
4. Speak to your coworkers. If you discuss your accident and injury with coworkers, make sure to be consistent with the details you share.
5. Consult with an attorney. A skilled Virginia workers’ compensation attorney can help you navigate the claims process and avoid traps set by workers’ compensation insurers that could later be used to deny your claim. Attorneys help manage communications with insurers, ensure that relevant deadlines are met, and tackle numerous other tasks that are often time-consuming and stressful for a worker or their loved ones. The experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Renfro & Renfro even offer a free case evaluation.
What If My Claim Is Denied?
Insurers may deny claims for injuries caused by unwitnessed accidents. However, if your claim is denied you have options. You can file a Claim for Benefits with the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission. After filing the requisite forms, there will be an evidentiary hearing with the Deputy Commissioner regarding your claim where you will be given the chance to present witnesses and documentary evidence. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney will be critical at this stage and can assist you in gathering evidence and representing you at your hearing. If you disagree with the Commissioner’s decision, you can appeal to the full Commission but they will only consider the evidence presented to the Deputy Commissioner so it is critical you are prepared at the outset. If you are not satisfied with the result from the full Commission, you may appeal to the Virginia Court of Appeals.
The path to obtaining Virginia workers’ compensation benefits is nuanced. While you can choose to tackle this process alone, the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Renfro & Renfro have skillfully represented clients on both sides and they will work tirelessly to advocate on your behalf. Contact us today for a free consultation.