All you need is a clear answer and an explanation of what you are entitled to in the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission after you’ve been injured at work. The answer is pretty simple when you break down the different forms of benefits, but sometimes the application is much more difficult. Before you stop reading, let me just say that you should be able to get a short simple answer about what you are entitled to after an injury.
So instead of writing a book, I’m going to give you a list of all of the different Virginia workers’ compensation benefits you may be entitled to:
1. Temporary Total Disability Benefits
This benefit is designed to provide wage replacement when your doctor says that you are completely unable to work. Pay attention to that last part: “when your doctor says that you are completely unable to work.” This is not a subjective question. That means it doesn’t matter how you feel about working with your injury. What matters is whether you can safely do a job within restrictions placed by your doctor. If not, then your doctor should write you out of work until your next follow-up appointment. If your doctor doesn’t realize that you were injured at work, you need to tell her. Ask for a work note every time you go to the doctor. If you don’t have work notes from your doctor, you will not be entitled to this benefit.
You are entitled to 2/3 of your average weekly wage. You determine your average weekly wage by adding up every gross amount you’ve earned in the last 52 weeks prior to your injury, then dividing by 52. You are only entitled to 2/3 of it because it is not taxable. So if you were making $900 per week, your compensation rate would be $600 per week.
You are also entitled to this if you have been released and you no longer have a job to come back to. But, you have a duty to try and find a job. You should follow these guidelines in conducting your job search to make sure you get your benefits while you are out of work.
2. Temporary Partial Disability Benefits
This benefit is designed to provide wage replacement when you are able to work, but you are making less than you were making before your injury. Perhaps you are on light duty and cannot work the overtime you were earning before. So this benefit will give you 2/3 of the difference between your average weekly wage (same calculation as above) and what you are making now. So if your average weekly wage was $900, but you are only able to make $600 per week now, then you would be entitled to 2/3 of $300. Or, $200.
3. Permanent Partial Disability Benefits
If you have done everything you need to do to get better, but you have a permanent injury, you may be entitled to what we call PPD. This benefit is only available after you have reached maximum medical improvement and your doctor assigns an impairment rating. You are entitled to 2/3 of your average weekly wage for the number of weeks listed for your body part in Code § 65.2-503. So if you lose 15% of your left upper extremity, then you would be entitled to 200 weeks times 15%, or 30 weeks. If your average weekly wage was $900, your compensation rate was $600, then you’d be entitled to $18,000.
4. Permanent Total Disability Benefits
This benefit is similar to PPD but it is for your lifetime depending on if you meet certain requirements.
- Loss of both hands, both arms, both feet, both legs, both eyes, or any two thereof in the same accident;
- Injury for all practical purposes resulting in total paralysis, as determined by the Commission based on medical evidence; or
- Injury to the brain which is so severe as to render the employee permanently unemployable in gainful employment.
These are probably the most severe that you can expect, short of the loss of life. If you have suffered a loss like this, you are entitled to 2/3 of your average weekly wage for the remainder of your life.
5. Lifetime Medical Award
Everyone who is injured at work is entitled to a lifetime medical award for the body part injured in the accident. All of your treatment caused by that injury should be covered under this award. Practically, however, it is better to get your treatment and reach maximum medical improvement sooner rather than later. The longer you wait, the more the Employer will challenge your treatment as related to this injury.
6. Cost of Living Increases
As life goes on, prices go up. This is called inflation. And the Virginia Workers’ Compensation system is designed to accommodate inflation by providing for cost of living supplements. Not everyone would be entitled to these, but if you are receiving a weekly amount for a long period of time, you may be entitled to an increase.
7. Death Benefit
If your loved one died while working, you may be entitled to what we call a death benefit. The people who would be entitled to this benefit are those who are wholly dependent on the deceased worker. That would be
- A wife upon a husband whom she had not voluntarily deserted or abandoned at the time of the accident or with whom she lived at the time of his accident, if she is then actually dependent upon him;
- A husband upon a wife whom he had not voluntarily deserted at the time of the accident or with whom he lived at the time of her accident, if he is then actually dependent upon her;
- A child under the age of eighteen upon a parent and a child over such age if physically or mentally incapacitated from earning a livelihood or a child under the age of twenty-three if enrolled as a full-time student in an accredited educational institution.
There are other possible beneficiaries if there is no spouse or minor child, but those situations are more fact-specific and you should consult an attorney to see if you are an eligible beneficiary.
This is an aerial view of the benefits that you could be entitled to in a Virginia workers’ compensation case. If you’ve been injured at work and have questions about what you may be entitled to, let us know and let us help.