If you were injured in the course of performing your job duties in Virginia, you’re generally entitled to file a workers’ compensation claim. Workers’ comp is no-fault insurance that most Virginia employers with three or more workers on the payroll must carry to cover the medical expenses and lost wages of employees who sustain work-related injuries. You do not have to prove that your injury was caused by any negligence on the part of your employer. Even if your accident was your own fault, you may still file a claim for benefits, and your company may not retaliate against you for doing so.
What to Do After Being Hurt at Work
Even though you’re entitled to workers’ comp benefits after your accident, your employer’s insurance company might look for ways to devalue or deny your claim in order to save money, especially if your injury is a serious one requiring expensive treatment and significant time off work for recovery. You can increase your chances of a successful claim by taking the steps outlined below.
Report Your Accidental Injury
As soon as possible after your accident, report your injury in writing to your supervisor or a claims administrator at your workplace. If your company doesn’t have a form for reporting injuries, you can simply write the report yourself in an email message or print it out and submit it. If you write it in longhand, be sure that it’s legible, make a copy for your files, and be sure to get some kind of confirmation that you’ve submitted your report, which should include:
- Your name and job title
- When, where, and how the accident happened
- Details of your injury (with photos if possible)
- Your contact information
- Names and contact information of any witnesses to the accident
Seek Medical Attention
See a doctor approved by your employer’s insurer right away. Inform the physician’s staff that you sustained your injury at work and that you’re in the process of filing a workers’ comp claim. It’s important that you follow the doctor’s treatment plan conscientiously, keep all appointments, follow up on all referrals, take medication as prescribed, retain receipts and other documentation of your treatment, and keep a daily journal of your treatment and recovery.
File Your Claim
Within ten days of receiving your report, your employer should file a First Report of Injury (FROI) with the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission (VWCC). You can then go to the VWCC website’s “Injured Workers” page and complete a Claim for Benefits Form, which you may submit in person or by fax, mail, or WebFile.
Although the VWCC gives you 30 days to report your injury and two years to file your claim, you should do both as soon as possible. Any delay on your part gives the insurance company ammunition to use against you. The insurer might claim that you delayed reporting and filing because your injury is not work-related or not as serious as you say it is. If the VWCC accepts your claim, you’ll receive an Awards Agreement. This means that your health care providers may submit their bills to the insurer, and you should start receiving weekly wage benefits soon.
Consult a Workers’ Comp Lawyer
While a simple claim for a minor injury with low medical bills and little time off work might not require the help of an attorney, more expensive or complex claims generally do. The claim process includes deadlines and other procedural requirements to meet if you want your claim to succeed. You’re also likely to encounter delay tactics, slow payment for medical treatments, or a dispute of your claim by the insurance company.
An experienced workers’ comp lawyer can handle all necessary paperwork and communications with the insurer. Your attorney can also:
- Organize and present your evidence to prove your eligibility for benefits
- Counter any delays or retaliatory tactics on the part of your employer or the insurer
- Negotiate a lump sum payment in some cases
- Appeal a denied claim to the VWCC or in civil court
- Help you to file a third-party lawsuit if your injury was partially caused by a person or entity unaffiliated with your employer.