The Virginia Occupational Safety and Health (VOSH) Law requires every employer in Virginia to meet state-mandated safety standards and maintain a workplace free of hazards that might lead to employees' serious injury or death on the job. All employers must submit to VOSH inspections intended to make sure their workplaces are safe.
Industries Exempt From VOSH Regulations
The only employers exempt from VOSH regulations are:
- Federal agencies
- Companies operating under the Atomic Energy Act
- Businesses under Federal Maritime jurisdiction
Enforcement of VOSH Standards
Heavy fines can be imposed on employers who violate VOSH regulations repeatedly and fail to make corrections. An intentional safety violation leading to the death of an employee is punishable by even heavier fines and possible incarceration. An employee whose workplace is unsafe may request an inspection or report safety violations to a VOSH office, and the employer may not retaliate against the employee for doing so.
Workplace Accidents and Injuries
Despite strict workplace safety regulations, many on-the-job accidents occur regularly in Virginia, such as:
- Slip-and-fall accidents
- Falling object mishaps
- Vehicle crashes
- Heavy lifting accidents
- Equipment failures
- Exposure to toxic materials
- Crush accidents
What Is Workers' Compensation?
Workers' compensation is no-fault insurance that covers employees' work-related injuries and illnesses. It is intended to replace and eliminate lawsuits brought by injured employees against their employers. If your employer carries workers' comp insurance, which most Virginia employers with three or more workers are required to do, you generally may not sue the company for your work-related injury. Instead, you have the right to file a claim for workers' comp benefits, and you need not prove your employer did anything wrong to cause your accident.
What Does Workers' Comp Cover?
Even if the accident was your fault, you would still be eligible for benefits, which generally include all your medical expenses and two-thirds of the income you lose due to your injury. In some cases, workers' comp also provides long-term disability benefits and vocational re-training. Families who lose loved ones on the job may file workers' comp death benefit claims.
Eligibility Requirements for Workers' Comp
To be eligible for workers' comp benefits, you must sustain your accidental injury at one specific time as a direct result of performing your job in the workplace or during a work-related activity elsewhere. Psychological injuries resulting from covered physical injuries are also compensable. Repetitive motion injuries (like carpal tunnel syndrome) that develop over time on the job, however, are not covered by Virginia workers' compensation, nor are injuries resulting from any illegal activity, intentional misconduct, or the use of alcohol or drugs on the job.
Reporting, Filing, and Getting Treatment
If you suffer an accidental work-related injury that meets the eligibility requirements above, you should take the following steps to begin the workers' comp claim process:
Report Your Injury
If you are physically able, report your accident and injury in writing to your supervisor. Include photos of your injury if it's visible. If you're incapacitated, ask someone to report for you. Within ten days, your employer should file a First Report of Injury (FROI) form on your behalf with the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission (VWCC).
File Your Claim
Use the Claim for Benefits Form from the Injured Workers page of the VWCC website to submit your workers' comp claim in person or by mail, fax, or Web file.
Get Medical Attention
As soon as possible, see a doctor who is certified and recommended by your employer's insurance company. (Do not simply go to your own doctor; doing so could be harmful to your claim.) Remind the recommended doctor's office staff that you're being treated for a work-related injury. Be sure to keep all appointments with the doctor and with any specialists to whom you're referred.
Follow the doctor's treatment plan to the letter and keep all receipts and other documentation of your treatments. If you're given medication, take it at the times and in the quantities prescribed.
Keep a daily journal documenting your treatment and recovery, noting your level of pain and your ability to perform physical functions that will be required by your job when you return to work.
Be Prompt and Proactive
The VWCC allows you 30 days to report your accidental injury and two years to file your claim, but you absolutely should not wait to do either. Any delay on your part in reporting your injury, filing your claim, or getting medical care gives your employer's insurance company ammunition to use against you and dispute your claim. The insurer can say you would have taken action sooner if you were really as badly hurt as you claim to be.
How an Attorney Can Help
If your work-related injury is minor, your medical bills are low, your employer does not dispute your claim, and you meet all deadlines and filing requirements, you might not need the services of an attorney to get your benefits. An inexpensive claim is the most likely to be accepted. When that happens, you'll be given an Awards Agreement and begin receiving weekly payments for a specified number of weeks.
In recent years, however, workers' comp insurers, under pressure to earn a profit, have become increasingly apt to dispute and deny expensive claims with high medical bills and long periods of time off work. The insurer might insist, for example, that your injury is the result of a pre-existing condition and refuse to pay the benefits you need and deserve.
If your claim is denied, the insurer is slow to pay for necessary treatments or make timely wage reimbursement payments, your employer retaliates against you for filing, or you're ordered back to work too soon, you need the services of a workers' comp lawyer who can help you by:
- Organizing your medical evidence, interviewing witnesses, and calling in experts to prove your injury is work-related
- Negotiating for a lump sum settlement as opposed to long-term weekly payments
- Appealing your denied claim to the VWCC or in civil court if necessary
- Helping you to file a third-party claim against a party other than your employer that bears responsibility for your injury
Have You Been Injured and Deprived of Your Rights on the Job?
An experienced Virginia workers' comp rights attorney can help you seek fair benefits. Contact us online or call us at 540-341-0007 to schedule your free consultation. You pay no attorney fees until we win your case.