Because Virginia’s workers’ compensation rules are complex, filing a claim and receiving the benefits you deserve may not be as simple as it should. Many injured workers and families of deceased workers do not get the financial assistance they are entitled to.
There are mistakes you should avoid to ensure you do not damage your workers’ compensation claim. The lawyers at Geoff McDonald & Associates understand Virginia workers’ compensation laws and can help you manage a claim from start to finish.
Below are some key mistakes to avoid in making a workers’ comp claim in Virginia:
- Failing to report your accident. To start a workers’ compensation claim, you must report your injury to your employer in writing as soon as possible, following the employer’s policy. If there is no written policy, write a report about your injury and how it happened. Make sure your supervisor, the human resources department and any company nurse or safety officer gets a copy.
- Not explaining your injury to doctors. Your workers’ compensation benefits will be based on medical records and the accident report. If there’s a dispute, medical care providers will be considered impartial and their reports will be given weight. Make sure every doctor you see understands how your accident, your injury and your recovery affect you.
- Not filing an accurate and timely claim. You have two years after an occupational injury or illness to file a workers’ compensation claim in Virginia. In addition to filing a complete and accurate claim form, you must obtain and submit related medical records. A late, incomplete or inaccurate form can lead to a delay or denial of benefits.
- Not following doctors’ orders. Workers’ compensation insurance is designed to assist injured workers until they can return to work. It is important to follow doctors’ recommendations for treatment, medication, rehabilitation, etc., including keeping appointments. If your employer or the insurer tells the Workers’ Compensation Commission that you are not working to recover, your benefit payments could end. If you disagree with your assigned doctors’ orders, you should ask the commission to allow you to change doctors.
- Failing to obtain a second opinion. An injured worker must see a doctor chosen from several suggested by his or her employer. You should also see your own doctor. The employer-selected doctor and your doctor may disagree about your readiness to return to work. If you fight a return-to-work order, you may have a better chance to continue to receive recovery benefits if your doctor’s opinion is part of the record.
- Returning to work too quickly. To save money, your employer’s insurer may ask your employer to find some work you can do as you recover. You should request a description of proposed job duties and have your doctors review it to ensure that you can do the work. You should not do any work without doctors’ approval, for the sake of your health as well as receipt of full benefits.
- Not seeking work when you are well enough. Workers’ comp rules require you to look for and accept work you can do as you recover. When your doctors say you are ready, you should contact your employer and ask about returning to work. If you need accommodations to do your job, you should explain this to your employer. You may be given a temporary assignment if you are not ready to assume your normal job duties. If your wages are reduced because your injury forces you to take a job that pays less, you may be eligible for a reduced-earnings benefit.
- Accepting an inaccurate disability rating. If you do not completely recover, you may be assigned a permanent partial disability (or impairment) rating once your employer-chosen doctor determines that you have reached maximum medical improvement. This rating determines your final workers’ compensation settlement. A lower rating may mean a smaller benefit over the long term. Unless you have returned to work and are making as much as before you were injured, you may need to appeal this decision.
- Settling your claim without a job. If you cannot return to your old job or similar work, your workers’ comp benefits should include vocational rehabilitation or job placement services. Your employer and the insurer may try to avoid this extra expense. You should seek every benefit available to help you get back on your feet and back to work.
- Not hiring an experienced Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer. After a workplace injury, the decisions made by your employer, the insurer and “their” doctor will have a significant impact on your workers’ compensation claim and your financial well-being. They know how to use the system to their advantage, but you have probably never had contact with workers’ comp before now.
Hiring a licensed workers comp attorney levels the playing field. Since there’s no charge for a consultation at Geoff McDonald & Associates, not taking advantage of this offer for free legal advice is another mistake to avoid.
Call us or fill out our online contact form now to set up a free, no-obligation claim review.