If you get hurt on the job – or develop an occupational illness, like tuberculosis – then you may be entitled to medical treatment and financial compensation. Through a workers’ compensation claim, you can seek benefits from your employer and their insurance company for your workplace injury.
Although the Virginia workers’ compensation system is no fault, employers and their insurance companies often attempt to underpay or deny legitimate claims for benefits. They may argue that an injury wasn’t work-related, that certain types of treatment are unnecessary, or that an employee can return to work before they are fully healed. An experienced Virginia Beach workers’ compensation attorney can help to protect your rights and ensure that you get the benefits that you are entitled to under the law.
The Jeff Brooke Team is dedicated to helping injury victims get the compensation that they deserve. We work collaboratively with our clients to understand their goals, and then put together a comprehensive strategy to achieve the best possible outcome. Give our law office a call to schedule a free initial consultation with a member of our legal team.
Understanding the Virginia Workers’ Compensation System
In Virginia, the law works to protect injured workers. If you are hurt in a workplace accident, you may be entitled to wage-loss benefits and your employer may have to provide you with all necessary medical care at no expense to you.
Under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act, all employers with three or more part-time or full-time employees are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance. This insurance is designed to cover medical bills, lost wages, and other losses associated with a workplace injury or illness.
The Virginia workers’ compensation system is no-fault, which means that you do not have to prove that your employer did anything wrong in order to obtain compensation. This makes the process much easier than other types of legal claims – such as a personal injury lawsuit. It does not mean that your employer and their insurance company will automatically pay full benefits for as long as you need them.
Employers and their insurance companies often work hard to deny benefits to workers. They use a number of tactics to deny or minimize claims, such as having an insurance adjuster obtain a statement from an injured worker that they later use against them. They may also challenge the severity of your injury, whether a certain medical treatment is necessary, or if you are truly unable to work.
For this reason, it is vital to have a seasoned Virginia Beach workers’ compensation attorney by your side. Even if your employer claims to not have insurance, or that you were at fault in the accident, we can help you obtain the benefits you deserve. If you have suffered an injury or been in an automobile accident while at work, or if your doctor has told you that your job has made you sick, call the Jeff Brooke Team and let us evaluate your case.
Filing a Claim for Workers Compensation in Virginia Beach
If you are hurt on the job or are diagnosed with an occupational disease, then you can file a workers’ compensation claim. The first step in the process is notifying your employer in writing of your injury or diagnosis. This report must be made within 30 days of your injury and should include as much detail as possible.
If you fail to file a report within this time frame, then your claim could be barred entirely. To protect your interests, it is a good idea to make this report as quickly as possible. Your employer may have a form for you to use, or you may be able to simply send an email to your supervisor about your injury or illness.
The next step in the process is to file a Claim for Benefits Form with the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission within 2 years of the date of your accident. This form can be filed in person at a regional office, mailed to the Commission’s Richmond office, faxed to the Commission, or filed online using the WebFile system. Even if your employer accepts responsibility for your injury or illness, you should still file the Claim Form to preserve your right to benefits.
After you notify your employer of your workplace injury or illness, they have 10 days to notify their insurer and the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission. The Commission will then issue a “20-day order,” which informs the insurer that they have 20 days to act on your workers’ comp claim. Within this time period, the insurance carrier will either accept or deny your workers’ compensation benefits claim.
During this time period, an insurance adjuster may reach out to you and ask you to make a statement. Be mindful that the insurance company doesn’t have your best interests at heart. Their goal is to pay out as little as possible for your claim. For this reason, it is a good idea to consult with workers’ comp lawyers before talking to the insurance company about your claim.
If the insurance company accepts your claim, then they will provide you with agreement forms to sign. This agreement will then be submitted to the Commission, which will enter an award order.
However, if the insurance company denies your claim for workers’ compensation benefits, then you will need to go to a hearing before the Commission. During this hearing, you will have an opportunity to present evidence and testimony and make an argument in favor of benefits. A skilled Virginia Beach workers’ compensation lawyer can represent you in the hearing and help you get the best possible outcome for your claim.
What Benefits Am I Entitled to Under Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation Law?
In Virginia, injured workers may obtain medical care and payment for lost wages as part of a workers comp claim. In addition, if an injured employee dies, their survivors may be entitled to death benefits.
If your claim is compensable, then your employer is responsible for paying for necessary medical treatment. This may include treatment from an authorized physician and specialists, hospitalization, physical therapy, prescription drugs, medical tests, and prostheses. In addition, if you have to travel to see an authorized doctor, workers comp will provide mileage reimbursement.
A workers’ compensation claim typically also includes payment for lost wages and other monetary compensation. The rate, amount, and duration of these benefits are set by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act. Depending on your situation, you may be eligible for:
- Temporary Total Disability (TT) if you cannot work because of your injury or illness. TT benefits are calculated at 66 ⅔% of your regular weekly wage, subject to a maximum reimbursement amount.
- Temporary Partial Disability (TP) if you can return to work with restrictions.
- Permanent Partial Disability (PPD) if you have reached a state of maximum medical improvement and your condition is not expected to improve significantly. PPD benefits are based on a permanent impairment rating under the Guide for Permanent Loss.
- Permanent Total Disability (PTD) if your injuries are so severe that you are permanently unable to work.
If a worker dies as a result of an accident at work or an occupational illness, their loved ones may be entitled to death benefits. These benefits may include burial expenses of up to $10,000, reasonable transportation expenses up to $1,000, and financial compensation to dependents.
What’s the Difference Between Personal Injury and Workers’ Compensation?
If you’ve been injured on the job in Virginia, chances are you will be eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. In limited circumstances, you may also have a personal injury claim. In most cases, you will be limited to seeking benefits through a workers’ compensation claim.
Workers’ compensation benefits are paid through an insurance plan that your employer provides. The Virginia Workers Compensation Act requires any employer with three or more employees to carry the insurance, which covers work injuries and occupational diseases. Alternatively, employers may be self-insured.
To be covered by the insurance, an accident must happen while the worker is doing something on behalf of his or her employer. The injury must occur at work or during a work-related function, be caused by a specific work activity, or have happened suddenly at a specific time. The insurance does not cover injuries outside the scope of employment, those caused by the employee’s own willful misconduct, or injuries that occur gradually or from repetitive trauma.
Similarly, occupational illnesses are covered by workers’ compensation. If you develop an illness or disease that is related to your work – such as a lung condition caused by exposure to toxic chemicals – then you could file a workers comp claim.
Workers’ compensation is considered an exclusive remedy. This means that when injuries or illnesses are covered by workers’ compensation insurance, the law prohibits the employee from filing a civil action against the employer or fellow employees. When a worker receives workers’ comp, they cannot also file a personal injury lawsuit against the employer or another employee. Insurance is the only source of financial reimbursement from the employer.
Because the workers’ compensation system is no-fault, employees don’t have to prove fault, carelessness, or negligence on the part of their employer. It doesn’t even matter if the employee did something that caused the accident unless the employee’s conduct qualifies as willful misconduct. If your injury or illness is related to work, it will be covered by Virginia’s workers’ compensation law.
Virginia Personal Injury Law
In Virginia, personal injury claims are also subject to a number of different statutes, as well as judicial case law. One of the primary requirements for any personal injury claim is establishing the negligence or fault of the person who caused the injury. This element is one of the main differences between a personal injury claim and a workers’ compensation claim.
There is an additional fact that must be proven in a Virginia personal injury claim. The person making the claim cannot have contributed in any way to his or her own injuries or be at fault for the accident in any way. The legal principle is called contributory negligence. If the individual making the personal injury claim shares fault for causing the accident, he or she cannot recover from another person, even if that other person was more at fault. Virginia law is different from laws in other states on this issue.
Can I File a Personal Injury Claim for a Work-Related Injury?
As a general rule, workers cannot file personal injury lawsuits against their employers for work-related injuries or illnesses. However, there are some exceptions to this rule.
If your employer failed to carry workers’ compensation when they were required to do so, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against them. In addition, if you are sexually assaulted at work, you can file a lawsuit against your employer for your injuries.
While a worker usually cannot file a personal injury claim against his or her employer for work-related injuries under the workers’ compensation law, there are situations where the worker may be able to make a personal injury claim against a third party. In those situations, the personal injury claim will be separate and different from the workers’ compensation claim.
Generally, work-related situations that give rise to a personal injury claim are those where injuries occur from car and truck accidents, premises liability, and product liability. Here are some examples:
- Motor Vehicle Accidents: If you are the driver or a passenger in a car or truck while you are working, and you are injured in an accident, you may have a personal injury claim against the at-fault party. Whether you have a claim will depend on the circumstances of the accident and how Virginia auto accident law applies.
- Premises Liability, including Slip-and-Fall Accidents: If, while you are working, you are injured in an accident on business premises not owned or controlled by your employer, you may have a personal injury claim for premises liability. Common premises accidents include slip-and-fall cases.
- Product Liability: If you use machinery in your work, and you suffer an injury while you are operating the machinery, a product liability claim may result if the machinery was defective and the defect caused your injury.
Damages in Workers’ Compensation and Personal Injury Cases
In both workers’ compensation and personal injury cases, the amount of damages you can recover is determined by the applicable law. In most cases, a personal injury lawsuit will result in greater damages – and money for losses that aren’t covered under Virginia’s workers’ compensation law.
Workers’ compensation benefits generally include payment for only economic losses, such as:
- Lifetime medical benefits
- Wage loss for up to 500 weeks
- Permanent partial or total disability
- Death benefits
By contrast, damages that may be available in a personal injury claim include both economic and non-economic compensation. That means monetary recovery in a personal injury claim may be greater than the amount received under workers’ comp. The additional elements that may be included in a personal injury claim include pain and suffering, loss of earning capacity, wage loss for a greater period of time, and sometimes punitive damages.
In situations where both a workers’ compensation claim and personal injury claim can be filed, it does not mean that you receive payment twice. If damages are recovered in a personal injury case, the workers’ compensation insurance company is entitled to recover amounts paid for the injuries that are also part of the personal injury compensation. In addition, personal injury settlements generally must be approved by the workers’ compensation carrier to avoid losing future workers’ comp benefits.
Making a Personal Injury Claim for a Work-Related Injury
Situations that have the potential for filing both a workers’ comp claim and a personal injury claim are extremely complex legally and factually. There are also practical considerations that need to be taken into account in deciding whether to pursue a personal injury claim.
If your injuries are minor and short-term, and you are fully compensated by your workers’ comp benefits, there may be no advantage in filing a personal injury claim. However, if you suffer long-term, significant injuries that cause pain and suffering and permanent disability, there may be reasons to consider filing a personal injury claim.
When your work-related injuries are substantial and a third party may be at fault, you should discuss your case with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney. Your lawyer will investigate the accident, evaluate the facts, and determine whether another person can be held responsible for your injuries. Talking with a lawyer with knowledge of both Virginia personal injury and workers’ compensation law is the only way to find out with certainty whether a personal injury claim is a viable option.
Do I Need to File a Claim with the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission If I Told My Employer about My Work-Related Injury?
Yes. You should always file a Claim Form with the Commission within 2 years of the date of your accident or diagnosis of an occupational injury, even if the insurance company agrees to provide benefits. Filing this form preserves your rights and gives you the option to pursue a claim if you have not fully recovered within 2 years.
The Jeff Brooke Team will stand by your side throughout the process, assisting you with forms and helping you put together a strong claim for benefits. Reach out today to schedule a free initial consultation with a Virginia Beach workers’ compensation attorney.
Can I Be Fired for Filing a Workers’ Compensation Claim in Virginia Beach?
Virginia law prohibits employers from firing an employee for filing a workers’ comp claim. However, employers may still illegally fire a worker for seeking these benefits. Working with a team of experienced workers’ comp attorneys may reduce the risk that your employer will retaliate against you for filing a claim for benefits.
If you have been hurt at work, an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer can fight for your rights. In Virginia Beach, contact the Jeff Brooke Team to schedule a free consultation.
If I File a Claim with the Commission, Will I Have to Go to a Hearing?
No. Hearings are only held if the insurance company denies or disputes your workers’ compensation claim. In most cases, a hearing before the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission is never necessary.
However, it is still important to file your claim form within 2 years of your accident or diagnosis. This will preserve your right to file a claim. Contact the Jeff Brooke Team to talk to a seasoned Virginia Beach workers’ compensation lawyer.
Talk With an Experienced Virginia Beach Personal Injury Attorney
After a work-related injury, you may be dealing with significant pain, financial stress, and emotional trauma. While getting benefits might not make you whole again, it can help to ease any financial strain. A skilled workers comp attorney can help you with the process.
The Jeff Brooke Team is dedicated to helping injury victims get the best possible outcome for their claim. We work with clients to help them determine whether they should seek benefits through a workers comp claim and/or a personal injury lawsuit. To learn more or to schedule a free consultation with a Virginia Beach workers’ compensation lawyer, call our law office at 757-552-6016 or fill out our online contact form.