Imagine this scenario: a trucking company employee was found lying next to his truck, unable to recall what had happened to him. It turns out the man suffered a serious brain injury which was why he could not remember how he was injured. Because there were no eyewitnesses and the man could not testify as to how he was injured, his Virginia workers’ compensation claim was denied. The man received no compensation for the constant medical care he needs as a result of his serious head injuries and dies two years later, leaving behind his wife.
Does that sound like a fair and compassionate end to the man’s troubles?
Unfortunately, it is a true story. The man, Arthur Pierce, was injured in 2006 and from then until his death in 2008 required constant care because of his severe head trauma. His widow brought his case to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, however, the claim was denied as the Commission stated that there was not enough evidence that Pierce’s injury occurred while he was on the job.
In order to protect other workers like Pierce from being left without compensation after a severe head injury, lawmakers introduced a bill that would treat brain injury victims similarly to victims found dead on the job. When an employee is found dead at the workplace or in a location where he or she could reasonably be expected to be during work hours, the death is presumed to have arisen as a result of the individual’s employment – which means it would be covered by workers’ compensation. The exception is when there is a preponderance of the evidence that the victim’s death did not arise from their employment.
Opponents to the bill feared to presume that workers with severe brain injuries who were unable to recall the circumstances of their injury were likely injured as a result of their employment would result in fraud. It would be too easy, they reckoned, for an individual with a not-so-serious brain injury to pretend they were unable to recall what really happened. This begs the question – is it more important to prevent theoretical cases of fraud, or to protect the rights of workers like Arthur Pierce who die after suffering serious injuries and who never receive any compensation, leaving behind a suffering widow?
Virginia lawmakers have spoken and the bill was defeated. It looks like any future case like Arthur Pierce’s is destined to be just another workers’ compensation case to fall through the cracks.
If you would like assistance with your Virginia workers’ compensation claim case, please contact the Northern Virginia law firm Dulaney, Lauer & Thomas to find out how we can help you secure justice for your injuries.