Approximately 2.8 million injuries or illnesses in the workplace were reported in 2017, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Some industries, such as construction and transportation and material moving (such as truck driving), are known to be more dangerous than others. There were 5,147 deaths from work-related injuries in the U.S. in 2017. Incidents related to transportation were the most frequent cause of occupational-related death, causing 40 percent of the fatalities. Falls in the workplace alone accounted for 17 percent of all occupational-related fatalities, the highest level in more than a quarter-century.
Fortunately, workers’ compensation exists to benefit workers who have been injured or made ill on the job and to compensate family members whose loved ones have been killed in a workplace incident.
What Is Workers’ Compensation, and Who Can Obtain It?
Regardless of where and how you work, if you are injured or become ill from your job, you are entitled to workers’ compensation. Workers’ compensation is insurance that Virginia law requires all employers who employ more than two people to carry.
Because it is required insurance, you do not have to prove fault on the part of your employer to receive workers’ compensation benefits. It does not matter whether your employer was at fault, whether you were at fault, or whether third parties (that is, neither your employer nor you) were at fault. Everyone who works in a company with more than two employees is entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
In Virginia, employees are defined as part-time, seasonal, and temporary workers, minors, trainees, immigrants, working family members, and full-time salaried employees. In other words, even if you work part-time or temp and are injured on the job, workers’ compensation applies to you just as much as to a full-time worker.
If you are injured in such a way that you cannot return to your former line of work immediately, the law also provides light-duty status. Workers wanting to obtain light-duty status must comply with specific guidelines.
What Does Workers’ Compensation Cover?
Workers’ compensation compensates workers for medical expenses related to the accident or occupational illness, including doctor’s visits, hospital visits, prescription medication, medical devices, surgery, nursing services, and more.
It provides wage replacement for the time workers are out of work, and a cost-of-living (COL) increase, if appropriate. The wage replacement amount is set by the state at two-thirds of the average weekly wage (pre-injury) or the maximum benefit for the year, whichever is lower, up to a 2018 maximum of $1,082 per week. Neither wage loss or total worker comp claims are taxable. If you earn $1,000 each week on average, for example, your compensation would be $660.
Workers compensation provides both temporary and permanent disability benefits. If injured workers are unable to work at their former occupation due to an accident, workers’ comp provides vocational rehabilitation.
Workers’ comp also provides death benefits to surviving family members if a worker has been killed. Death benefits include wage loss compensation and burial expenses, and these benefits are capped at $10,000. They are payable to surviving spouses and children less than 18 years old (less than 23 years old if the children are attending an educational institution.)
Making a Workers’ Compensation Claim
Employees injured at work should notify their employer of the accident and any injuries immediately, and complete a Workers’ Compensation Commission Claim for Benefits form.
The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission requires injured workers to report accidents within 30 days of their occurrence or 30 days from the date the doctor diagnoses a worker with an occupational illness. Workers who don’t meet this 30-day reporting requirement may have their claim denied. The claim must be filed within two years of an accident.
A workers’ compensation claim begins a process in which the injured person, the company, and the insurance company all have a role. While it’s possible to file a worker’s comp claim yourself if you are injured, a Virginia workers’ compensation attorney can make sure you obtain the highest amount of compensation and the maximum benefits you are entitled to under the law.
The following areas can all affect your right to compensation and the benefits, care, and work that you receive:
- Your selection of a physician and receiving medical treatment. Virginia workers’ comp law allows injured employees to pick a doctor from a panel of three that the employer or insurance carrier provides. Once treatment begins, the worker cannot change the physician without employer approval or a hearing by the Workers’ Compensation Commission. People who don’t follow the required treatment may have their workers’ compensation benefits suspended.
- Requirements about providing recorded statements to the company or the insurer
- The period in which you must file a claim (generally, two years)
- Seeking and accepting light-duty work, and whether you are required to do so.
Unfortunately, many people do not fully understand their rights and responsibilities until it is too late, and these misunderstandings can cost you and your family in lost benefits that may never be regained.
It’s sad but true: workers’ compensation insurance costs employers money, and paying out on claims costs the insurance carriers money. While there are laws in place to protect employees from being treated unfairly, some employers and insurance companies will attempt to minimize the cost of your claim.
They may allege misconduct. They may claim fraud, arguing that your injuries or occupational illnesses are not related to work (and thus your responsibility, not that of workers’ comp). They may deny a claim for specious reasons or reasons that injured workers or their families do not understand. The worker may not understand the right of appeal.
When You Need a Tappahannock Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
An experienced Tappahannock workers’ compensation lawyer can help you navigate the complicated workers’ compensation process in our state. We can make sure that you know your rights and responsibilities, and we can help ensure that your benefits and compensation are maximized, not minimized.
We have offices in locations throughout the state, including Tappahannock, Richmond, Petersburg, and Fredericksburg. Our first consultation is always free. Contact Emroch & Kilduff online or call (804) 358-1568 today to speak with an experienced member of our legal team.