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Workers' compensation laws are laid out in Title 65.2 of the Code of Virginia, which specifies who is entitled to compensation, how much you can receive, and your rights. Virginia workers' comp law also dictates what is a work-related injury and what is not. If you've been hurt on the job, it is essential to understand how the law treats injured workers in Virginia so you can identify when you deserve compensation and when your employer is taking actions that violate your rights.
The Difference Between On-The-Job Injuries and Non-Work-Related Incidents
To get workers' compensation in Virginia, your injury or illness must be related to your job duties and occur during the course of your employment. There must be a clear connection between your job and your injury, and you must show that you weren't engaging in horseplay or something outside the scope of your work when you were injured.
Usually, workplace injuries have to occur on company premises for you to receive compensation. There are exceptions if leaving the premises falls directly under your duties, such as going to pick up supplies.
Proving the connection between your job and your injury or illness can be straightforward, but there are some gray areas. If you have a long-term illness or personal injury, you must show that you have an occupational disease or illness, not just that it got worse while you were working. If you engage in misconduct in the workplace and suffer an injury, you are not entitled to compensation. However, if someone else's misconduct caused your injury in the workplace, you are entitled to workers' comp benefits.
Common Types of Work-Related Injuries and Their Causes
The three most common workplace accidents and illnesses in 2020 were exposure to harmful substances or environments, overexertion and bodily reaction, and slips, trips, and falls. COVID-19 is included under harmful substances and environments, which moved that category up to first after its previous placement of sixth. Other injuries include exposure to hazards such as electricity, radiation, and extreme temperatures.
Overexertion and bodily reactions include non-impact and repetitive motion injuries. Injured workers in this category often have job requirements such as lifting, carrying, and pushing. Repetitive motion injuries occur in several body parts but don't generally involve strenuous activity.
Slips, trips, and falls include things such as:
- Slips and trips without a fall, such as when the worker catches themselves but is still injured
- Falling from a standing or sitting position against or onto another object on the same level
- Falling to another level, such as from ladders or scaffolding
- Jumping to another level
Another common type of injury in the workplace is caused by contact with objects and equipment. This category was the third-leading cause of workplace injuries before COVID-19. It includes injuries such as a loss of sight after being hit in the eye or fractured bones after being caught in equipment.
Your Rights and Protections in Case of Work-Related Injuries
Employers sometimes readily acknowledge workplace injuries and do not fight claims. In other instances, they challenge the details of a work-related accident, making it difficult for employees to get compensation for their injuries.
Understanding your rights when you have a job-related injury is essential so you recognize when and how to fight back. To strengthen your case, report your injury immediately, file all of your claims on time, and seek medical attention. Be sure to tell your primary care doctor or healthcare workers in an emergency care setting that you were injured on the job.
Overview of Workers’ Compensation Benefits and Comp Coverage
Workers' compensation in Virginia covers full-time employees, seasonal workers, and other part-time employees. It also covers minors, trainees, immigrants, and people working in a family-owned business. Businesses with more than two employees must carry a workers' compensation policy. Contractors must cover the workers of their subcontractors, even if those subcontractors have their own compensation insurance.
There are two types of temporary disability benefits available under Virginia workers' compensation law. If your doctor states you can return to work in a limited capacity, you may receive temporary partial disability benefit to supplement your wages. If you cannot return to work or your employer cannot accommodate your work restrictions, you may receive temporary total disability. If granted, you will receive 67% of your average earnings in the last 52 weeks.
You may also be granted permanent disability for an impairment or injury that will never significantly improve. Your doctor will give you an impairment rating, and depending on the rating, you can receive permanent partial or permanent total benefits for various traumatic injuries.
Your Rights to Medical Care and Rehabilitation Services
You are also entitled to medical benefits after a workplace injury, including rehabilitation. Through its workers' compensation insurance, your employer may be responsible for expenses such as:
- All authorized medical costs, such as doctor's visits, physical therapy, medical tests, hospitalization, and prescriptions
- Charges from an authorized primary doctor and medically necessary specialists
- Reimbursement for travel to and from your approved doctor's visits
You choose your doctor from a panel of healthcare providers your employer provides. That doctor becomes your authorized treating physician, and they must make your referrals.
Safeguarding Job Protection and Anti-Retaliation Provisions
Under the Code of Virginia § 65.2-308, employers cannot discharge you because you filed a claim or intend to file a claim for workers' compensation. They also cannot terminate another employee for testifying on your behalf about your physical injuries or how they happened.
Virginia and federal law also bar employers from retaliating against employees for exercising their rights by reducing their hours or wages or taking other adverse actions. While no specific federal law against workers' compensation retaliation exists, you may be covered under the Americans With Disabilities Act or the Family and Medical Leave Act.
Navigate Complex Workers’ Laws With the Right Compensation Attorney
Workers' compensation claims are not always as straightforward as they should be, especially if your employer challenges your claim, you don't get the benefits you deserve, or you are the subject of retaliation. If you need help with your workers' compensation claim, contact the experienced team at Commonwealth Law Group. We will help you through the claims process and any appeals and fight on your behalf in court if necessary. We treat every client with the respect they deserve and will work with you to build a successful strategy that matches the specific circumstances of your case.
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.