If you are involved in an accident at work, it is important that you tell your supervisor about your accident as soon as you can. If you don't tell your employer about the accident within 30 days after the accident occurs, your workers' compensation claim can be barred for failing to give notice of the accident to your employer. You should tell your employer how your work accident happened, and what parts of your body you injured. After you receive medical care you should keep your employer up to date on your ability to return to work, even if the doctor tells you you can’t return to work yet.
You should also seek medical care for your injuries. Sometimes the true nature of your injury doesn’t immediately reveal itself. We have seen too many cases where a client suffered with pain for months before going to a doctor, only to find they have a serious work injury requiring surgery. Often, these clients did not report their work injury because they didn’t think it was serious. Every work injury is serious until a doctor tells you it isn’t.
When you report your work accident to your employer, they should provide you with a panel of physicians. This “panel” should be a list of three doctors you can choose from to seek medical care for your work injury. If your employer does not provide you with a panel of physicians, you can go to a doctor of your choosing.
If you’re injured at work, the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act entitles you to certain benefits. These benefits include, but are not limited to:
If you miss work because of a work injury, you are entitled to receive lost wage benefits. If your doctor takes you totally out of work, the insurance company should pay you lost wage benefits. These benefits are based on the amount of money you made before you were injured. The insurance company is required to pay you two-thirds of the average amount of money you made per week before your accident happened. Generally, you are entitled to receive up to 500 weeks of lost wage benefits, unless you are permanently and totally disabled. If you are permanently and totally disabled, you are entitled to wage loss benefits for the rest of your life. Permanent total disability can result from a brain injury, permanent disability to two extremities, and in other circumstances.
If your doctor does not take you totally out of work and puts you on light duty, you are still entitled to wage loss benefits, however, you must look for a job to be entitled to these benefits. The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission has particular guidelines that must be followed to receive wage loss benefits in these circumstances.
Additionally, if your doctor puts you on light duty following your workplace accident, your employer may offer you light duty work. If your employer does offer you light duty work, they must comply with all the work restrictions given to you by your doctor. If the work is within your restrictions, you should accept the position offered by your employer. Depending on how much they pay you following your return to work, you may be entitled to wage loss benefits. It is important to speak with a Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer who can advise you of your rights to wage loss benefits.
If you have medical bills because of a work injury, in Virginia you are entitled to lifetime medical care and medical treatment related to the injury. So even if 50 years after your accident you have medical treatment related to your injury, the workers’ comp insurance company is responsible for paying the bills. Without any question, you are entitled to have all your medical care related to your work accident paid for by the workers’ compensation insurance company. Following your accident, you may need emergency medical care, MRIs, CT scans, surgery, physical therapy, and other expensive medical treatment. Paying forth all your medical care is the responsibility of the Virginia workers’ compensation insurance company. If your doctor recommends medical care, and the insurance company denies payment, you should hire a lawyer to ensure that you get the medical care you need and have your bills paid by the insurance company.
In addition, you may have to travel to the doctor and pay out-of-pocket expenses for prescriptions and other medical care after a work injury. Under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act, you are entitled to reimbursement for some of these expenses. Our workers’ compensation lawyers can tell you how to get reimbursement for these out-of-pocket expenses.
If you can’t drive to the doctor because you don’t have a driver’s license or are unable to drive because of your work injury, the insurance company should provide transportation for your medical and therapy appointments.
Filing a claim for your work injury with the Workers’ Compensation Commission is essential to protecting your workers’ comp rights. In Virginia, you have two years to file a workers’ compensation claim after the date your accident occurred. There is a difference between reporting your work accident to your employer and the insurance company and filing a claim with the Commission. In order to file a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission, you must file a Claim for Benefits. Filing a Claim for Benefits advises the Commission of your accident and injuries, and advises them of the benefits you are seeking. If you do not file a claim with the Commission within two years after your accident, your claim may be forever barred – and you will be entitled to nothing. So yes, you should file a claim with the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission to ensure you receive your workers’ comp benefits. Contact our workers’ compensation attorneys today, and we’ll file your claim for you!
Even if the insurance company is paying you, it doesn’t mean your claim is protected. Until an “Award Order” is entered by the Commission your rights are not set in stone. It is imperative you file a Claim for Benefits and receive an Award Order to protect your workers’ compensation rights.
If you talk to the insurance company to report your accident, do not give a recorded statement. As part of reporting your accident, you've already told your employer how the accident happened. Your employer should report the work accident to their workers’ comp insurance company. You may have spoken to the insurance adjuster and told them about your accident too. But after you’ve given your initial statement the insurance company may ask you to give a recorded statement. Don’t do it.
You are not required to give the insurance company a recorded statement to receive benefits. Often, the insurance adjuster will tell you that you have to give them a recorded statement if you want to receive benefits. This is not true. The insurance company wants you to give a recorded statement so they can ask you pointed questions that will weaken or irreparably damage your potential claim. Remember, the insurance company’s job is to make as much money as possible. The way they make money is by denying claims. Do not give a recorded statement. Instead, hire an attorney who specializes in Virginia workers’ compensation.
So when the insurance company asks you for a recorded statement, why not say “Talk to my lawyer” instead. We can let the insurance company know the information they need to pay your benefits. Don’t take the risk of trusting the insurance company, they’re not looking out for you. Your lawyer is the one who protects your interests.
If the insurance company asks you to sign a release, you should decline. Virginia workers’ compensation law does not require you to sign a release for the insurance company. In fact, your doctor will submit his bills to the insurance company after you tell him who your employer is. The release the insurance company sent to you will likely give the insurance company access to all of your medical treatment from the date you were born. What did having chicken pox at eight years old have to do with your work injury? Nothing. The release is not required. Your medical care and treatment history unrelated to the work injury should be protected.
Injured workers often wonder if they need a lawyer for an on-the-job injury. You might not think you need a lawyer. But hiring an attorney is the best way to ensure that you get the benefits you deserve. Most lawyers do not know about Virginia workers’ compensation law. At Renfro & Renfro, our workers’ comp lawyers specialize in it. Why risk not getting all your benefits? Call us today to discuss your claim.