Do You Known Your Rights and Options Under VA Workers’ Compensation Laws?

Mar 31, 2015 | Personal Injury

A joint investigative report by the ProPublica journalism organization and National Public Radio (NPR) uncovers the “dismantling” of workers’ compensation systems in states across the U.S.

According to the recently published ProPublica/NPR report, “big businesses” and their insurers have pushed for reforms in 33 states. These changes have cut benefits for injured and ill workers and made it harder for them to obtain those benefits.

While these changes have not majorly impacted workers with minor injuries, they have been disastrous to those who have suffered serious injuries or diseases and need workers’ compensation benefits the most, the report finds.

“The cutbacks have been so drastic in some places that they virtually guarantee injured workers will plummet into poverty,” the report states. “Workers often battle insurance companies for years to get the surgeries, prescriptions and basic help their doctors recommend.”

For Virginia workers, there have been no major reforms in recent years, the report states.

However, do you know your rights and options after you have been injured on the job or suffered a work-related disease in our state?

The following is a brief summary of the benefits you may be entitled to receive. Contact a lawyer from Geoff McDonald & Associates, P.C., for a more thorough explanation and a review of the specific facts of your case.

(You can also learn more about the process of seeking benefits by going to our page on “How the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Works” or by going to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission website.)

Medical Benefits

Under Virginia law, employers must cover an injured or ill worker’s medical expenses for as long as they are needed. However, workers must get treatment from a doctor approved by the employer or its workers’ compensation insurer.

After you are hurt in an accident or diagnosed with an illness, your employer should present you with a panel of three doctors. You must choose a doctor from this panel for your treatment. If the employer doesn’t give you a panel, you can choose any doctor.

After you start treatment for your injury or illness, you cannot go to another doctor unless your employer or the insurer approves the change. If you do not get this approval, the employer can deny paying the costs of your unapproved treatment.

If you have any disputes about your medical benefits coverage – including an employer’s rejection of your request to change doctors – you can seek a hearing before the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission.

You can – and should – be represented by an experienced attorney at the hearing. A lawyer can review your medical records, present expert opinion on why you need certain treatment and aggressively challenge your employer’s rejection of coverage.

Lost Wage Benefits

If you cannot perform any work due to your injury or illness, you should receive benefits that cover 2/3 of your gross average weekly wages. However, the amount is capped at a limit set by the legislature each year. See this chart for an overview of those caps.

If you can return to work – but only on a light-duty basis – you should receive 2/3 of the difference between your current wage and what you earned before your injury.

Unless you are “totally and permanently disabled,” you cannot receive lost wage benefits past 500 weeks. A worker is “totally and permanently disabled” if he or she is paralyzed, disabled from a brain injury or has lost both hands, arms, legs, feet or eyes – or any two of those body parts.

You may be entitled to other benefits if you suffer vision or hearing loss, disfigurement or lost use of specific body parts: The arm, leg, finger or eye. The number of weeks you are eligible to receive these benefits will depend on the degree to which you have lost use.

Many disputes arise with lost wage benefits. For instance, employers may challenge whether an injury or illness was truly work-related and the degree of injury that a person has suffered. As with medical benefits, workers can challenge employers in a hearing. Being represented by a lawyer at the hearing can greatly improve one’s chance of success.

Death Benefits

Virginia workers’ compensation benefits are available to certain family members if a worker dies from a job-related injury or illness. These family members include a surviving spouse and children who are under age 18 (or under age 23 if enrolled full-time in school). Additionally, an employer must pay up to $10,000 in funeral and burial costs.

Third-Party Injury Claims

You cannot sue your employer if you are receiving workers’ compensation benefits in Virginia. However, if your injury or illness was caused by a non-employer, you can file a personal injury lawsuit against that party. The damages you may recover can go well beyond workers’ compensation benefits and can include compensation for your pain and suffering.

Examples of third-party injury claims include lawsuits against manufacturers of defective products (including chemicals or toxins you may have been exposed to on the job) or against negligent drivers who cause auto accidents.

At Geoff McDonald & Associates, P.C., we know how to identify and overcome challenges that arise in workers’ compensation cases. We also understand the importance of pursuing all options for a worker’s recovery, including third-party personal injury and wrongful death claims.

As the ProPublica/NPR report underscores, workers need to know their rights, and they should work with an attorney who will stand up for them and make sure those rights are protected.

Geoff McDonald and Associates: 804-888-8888.


No Fees Unless We Win

    What a Demand Package Is in a Virginia Personal Injury Case

    Some careless driver has hit your car, and naturally, you expect a hefty settlement for the trouble they’ve caused you. However, you can’t simply call the insurance company and ask for a bag of cash. First, your attorney will need to prepare a demand package. What is...

    5 Reasons Personal Injury Lawyers in Virginia Go to Court

    If you’ve had an accident, you probably expected the insurance company to send you a settlement check right away. Cue shock and disappointment when insurance decides to play hardball. An adjuster may throw you a low settlement offer, or they may refuse to pay for...

    Will My Insurance Go Up If I Hire an Injury Attorney?

    Car accidents can be costly – both to your health and your finances. When another driver is responsible for the crash, it’s important to ensure your rights are protected. While you will typically seek compensation from the other driver’s insurance company, the...

    Benefits of Hiring a Slip and Fall Attorney in Virginia

    Slip and fall accidents can cause serious injuries that impact your daily life and affect you for years. After an accident, you should focus on your recovery and let an experienced lawyer handle the details of your personal injury claim.  Often, these accidents occur...

    Our Case Results

    Industrial Plant Accident

    Attorneys for the Plaintiff: Jeffrey A. Breit and Justin M. Sheldon Our client was killed in an industrial accident when an unauthorized worker was operating an overhead crane and pinned our client between…

    Rear-End Crash

    Our client suffered a traumatic brain injury, facial trauma, a dislocated hip and severe abdominal trauma when she was rear-ended at a traffic light by a tractor trailer. Suit was commenced shortly after…

    Assault of Log Truck Driver

    Attorneys for the Plaintiff: Geoffrey R. McDonald, Frank H. Hupfl, Justin M. Sheldon.
    Our client suffered a traumatic brain injury after being assaulted and knocked to the ground while fueling his logging…

    Drunk Driving Crash

    Our client suffered neck/head trauma and a broken wrist after his vehicle was struck by a drunk driver while he was stopped at a traffic light. Upon rejection of a settlement offer of $325,000, our litigation…

    Rear-End Collision

    Attorneys for the Plaintiff: Justin M. Sheldon and Geoff R. McDonald, Richmond
    GMA’s client was injured as a result of a rear-end collision in the greater Richmond area. The crash occurred a little after…

    Client Reviews

    Cheryl and Rich were wonderful and patient with me throughout the case. All of my questions were answered. They really helped me through this tough time and made sure to let me know what was going on. I really thank Geoff…

    Troy Saxby

    My experience with GMA staff was first rate. They always represented in a professional way and made sure I had everything as far as paperwork. Kara and Theo made sure to answer all my questions, was always available and so…

    Shirley Brown

    Geoff McDonald & Associates is the team that you want on the field if you’re in need of top notch legal defense! Mr. Taj Henley demonstrated true customer service skills and his expertise made me feel comfortable throughout the…

    Julian Reeves

    Geoff McDonald & Associates: Thank you Taj Henley for all of your hard work and dedication! Very expeditious in my case and I was very satisfied with my settlement. Will recommend to all my friends and family!

    Shareema Williams

    Geoff is number one in my book and I especially appreciate the support of Mr Henley

    Ebony Conwell

    I was so pleased with the knowledge and support from Mr. Taj Henley

    Kideem Frierson

    Thank you Geoff McDonald &Associates. A special thank you to Mr. Taj Henley

    Denise Conwell

    Mr. Taj Henley displays exceptional professionalism for Geoff McDonald & Associates, along with commendable communication skills and customer service. By his work ethic and commitment to the people he serves his value to any…

    Justin Fitzgerald