If you are injured at work, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, workers’ compensation is governed by state statutes and case law. Your situation must meet certain legal standards in order for you to be eligible to receive benefits. It can be difficult to understand all this legalese, so I’m going to talk you through the details in plain language.
In order to qualify for Workers’ Compensation benefits in Virginia, your injury must meet the conditions that have been defined by case law. For the purposes of Virginia Workers’ Compensation law, and “accidental injury” is defined as:
A sudden mechanical change which arises out of and in the course of employment.
This definition has three parts, and your injury must meet all three.
A Sudden Mechanical Change
A sudden mechanical change means that you feel a “snap, crackle, or pop.” In other words, your injury must happen all at once, and you must feel something like a sharp pain, a pop, or a crack. If your injury occurs in one single, identifiable incident, it probably fits this qualification.
This part of the definition is important, because it excludes repetitive or cumulative trauma injuries. Virginia is the only state that does not provide Workers’ Compensation benefit for repetitive stress injuries.
The most well-known repetitive or cumulative trauma injury is carpal tunnel syndrome. Carpal tunnel syndrome is a cumulative trauma injury of the wrist and hand that causes numbness, weakness, pain, and tingling due to pressure on the median nerve of the wrist. It is extremely common in people who do a lot of keyboard or computer work.
Repetitive strain injuries can happen in almost any part of the body that is under constant stress due to repeating the same activities over and over. These injuries usually involve the nerves and/or tendons.
These injuries are very common in a wide variety of occupations, and it is unfortunate that Virginia case law does not currently recognize them.
Arising Out of Employment
Arising out of means that your injury must be caused by a heightened risk of your employment. There has to be something about your job that causes it.
For example, if you are bending over to tie your shoe and hurt your back, your injury would not be covered under workers’ compensation. You could be tying your shoe anywhere. It is not directly related to your job. However, if you are picking up a 100-pound engine block and hurt your back, that would be covered. That activity is an added risk of your employment.
If you trip and fall down the stairs, that injury would not be covered. If, on the other hand, there is some defect or safety violation in the stairs, that would be covered. A fall like this would also be covered if you were carrying a work-related item.
Essentially, there must be something particular about your work that causes your injury for it to be covered under workers’ compensation.
In the Course of Employment
In the course of employment means you have to be at work when the injury happens. If you are driving to or from work and get into an accident, it would not be covered under workers’ compensation.
If you are injured driving a company vehicle to or from work, however, you would be eligible for workers’ compensation.
Your injury may or may not be covered if it occurs in the parking lot before or after work. This depends on the parking situation at your job.
If you are traveling out of town for your job, most types of injuries will be covered under workers’ compensation.
These are some basic guidelines to help you understand what types of injuries and situations may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Ultimately, though, each injury is unique. And employers will try to find any loophole to get out of paying benefits. You need a good attorney on your side to get the benefits you deserve.