Virginia Workers’ Compensation Laws: What You Should Know

Sustaining an injury while at work can be a devastating experience, especially if the injury is permanent or if it results in significant medical bills.

Fortunately, Virginia workers' compensation laws are meant to protect your rights and interests if you are injured while on the job. Under workers' compensation laws, employers give up the right of defense on contributory negligence grounds and assumptions of risk.

In exchange, employees waive their right to trial by juries in workers' compensation lawsuits. This guarantees a speedier financial recovery in the claims process.

Every state has its own workers' compensation laws, which can vary widely depending on the types of benefits available after workplace accidents. People who qualify for workers’ compensation benefits may also vary from state to state. 

An experienced Virginia workers' compensation attorney can help you understand if you are covered under Virginia law and whether you have a strong workers' compensation case. Hiring a worker’s compensation lawyer can also prevent any form of mistreatment or discrimination during the claims process.

Virginia Workers Compensation: The Basics

The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act enacted in 1918 outlines the rights and responsibilities of employers, compensation insurance carriers, injured workers, and health care providers that treat injured personnel. 

Virginia workers' compensation rules provide injured employees with compensation for medical bills during the treatment and recovery period. Compensation law also provides workers with an income during the recovery phase and compensation for permanent disability.

The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission (VWC) is in charge of workers' compensation claims in the Commonwealth of Virginia. The Commission enforces state laws, administers compensation benefits, and resolves compensation disputes. The VWC is made up of:

  • Three commissioners
  • A chief deputy commissioner
  • Multiple deputy commissioners
  • An executive director

The Virginia Workers' Compensation Act provides definitions and general provisions that employers, insurance carriers, and employees are bound by. Here are some basics of Virginia workers' compensation laws.

Most Employers Must Get Workers’ Compensation Coverage

Workers' compensation insurance guarantees employees specific benefits for workplace injuries. It also shields employers from civil suits after workplace injuries.

The state of Virginia requires employers with more than two employees to have workers' compensation insurance. Virginia workers' compensation covers both full-time and part-time employees. 

According to the VWC, an employer’s responsibilities include:

  • Carrying the required workers' compensation insurance
  • Reviewing coverage requirements
  • Reporting work-related injuries promptly to the insurance provider
  • Posting a Workers’ Compensation Notice (Form VWC1) in a conspicuous location in the workplace
  • Understanding that workers' compensation expenses can't be deducted from wages

Few Work-Related Injuries and Compensation Claims Lead to Lawsuits

Most workers' compensation claims don't end in lawsuits. In most cases, an injured employee and the employer/insurance carrier reach an agreement through the VWC. If they don't dispute your claim, you will receive an Award Agreement form stating your compensation benefits. 

Most injured employees and employers/insurance carriers rarely end up in a full Commission, Court of Appeals, or Supreme Court hearing.

Few Work-Related Injuries and Compensation Claims Lead to Lawsuits

Most workers' compensation claims don't end in lawsuits. In most cases, an injured employee and the employer/insurance carrier reach an agreement through the VWC. If they don't dispute your claim, you will receive an Award Agreement form stating your compensation benefits. 

Most injured employees and employers/insurance carriers rarely end up in a full Commission, Court of Appeals, or Supreme Court hearing.

Not All Injured Workers Qualify for Compensation Coverage

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), private industry employers reported approximately 2.7 million nonfatal injuries and illnesses in the workplace in 2020.

In Virginia, not all injured workers are covered under workers' compensation laws. The law recognizes employees in Virginia as full-time, part-time, temporary, and seasonal workers. It also considers minors, trainees, working family members, and immigrants (regardless of legal status) as employees. Managers of limited liability companies are also treated as employees under Virginia workers' compensation laws.

Many employers classify employees as "independent contractors." Under Virginia compensation laws, independent contractors aren't eligible for compensation benefits. This is because an employer-employee relationship doesn't exist between the two parties.

The following factors are considered when determining whether you are an independent contractor:

  • If you were hired for a specific job/project and not for ongoing work
  • If you can hire or fire your own workers or helpers
  • If you are paid on a per-job basis instead of receiving hourly or daily wages
  • If you are in a field requiring specialized knowledge or training
  • The degree of control by the employer over the work done, including how and when the work is performed,

If a company has one or two employees, the employer isn't legally obligated to have insurance coverage for their employees. Sole proprietors and volunteer employees may not be compensated under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act. 

Workers' compensation in Virginia also doesn't require insurance for domestic employees, like nursing aides, house cleaners, and babysitters.

What to Do If Your Employer Lacks Workers Comp Coverage

Virginia employers who don't purchase or maintain the proper worker's compensation coverage for their employees are subject to civil penalties of up to $250 for each day they are uninsured. The maximum penalty for non-compliance is $50,000.

An uninsured employer is also liable for any job injuries their employees sustain. Employees can sue such employers for damages caused by workplace accidents.

Blatant disregard for obtaining workers' compensation insurance can result in criminal prosecution. The Commonwealth of Virginia can prohibit such employers from operating their businesses within the state.

VWC's Claims Services Department (CSD) has a funding system known as the Uninsured Employers’ Fund (UEF) that can cover your compensation and medical bills if your employer isn't properly insured. The UEF may provide money to pay for the compensation you are entitled to, including lifetime medical benefits, permanent and total disability benefits, and death benefits. 

If your employer is uninsured, you should consider hiring a Virginia workers' compensation lawyer to find out your legal options.

What to Do If Your Employer Denies Your Compensation Benefits

Reasons such as repetitive injuries, lack of witnesses, and pre-existing conditions may lead to your claim being denied. 

Luckily, the VWC makes the final decision regarding whether your employer and their insurance carrier must pay for your bodily injuries or occupational disease. You can request a hearing with the Commission to prove that your illness, disability, or injury was caused by your work.

If you disagree with the Commission's verdict, you have 30 days to appeal the decision. The appeals process in Virginia involves hearings before these bodies:

  • Full Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission
  • Virginia Court of Appeals
  • Supreme Court of Virginia

Find a Legal Representative to File Your Claim for Compensation

Virginia workers' compensation laws are complicated. Still, it's necessary to report your injury to your employer as soon as possible. You have two years from the date of the accident to file your claim with the commission. This time limit also applies from the date a doctor diagnoses your occupational injury.

If you or your loved one have been injured at work, you may have a claim for workers' compensation. Keep in mind that insurance carriers will do everything in their power to deny, delay, or limit your benefits.

At Commonwealth Law Group, we are well-versed in Virginia workers' compensation laws. Our attorneys will look into all aspects of your case and offer you sound legal counsel.

Contact us today to speak to knowledgeable Virginia workers' compensation lawyers.

If you have been injured at work or through the negligence of another individual or entity, contact us at (804) 999-9999 or or use the form below to connect with our legal team. We will fight to get you the justice you deserve.