Workers’ Compensation is designed as a compromise, by which the worker gives up the rights to pain and suffering and punitive damages and in turn does not have to prove the employer’s negligence.
The following information is meant to provide a starting point. These are general rules only; individual situations may vary. We strongly recommend that you seek the advice of an attorney if you have been hurt on the job.
Most full-time employees engaged in the “usual course of the trade, business, occupation or profession” of an employer in Virginia are covered under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act. However, certain types of laborers are not covered, including interstate railroad workers, domestic servants, certain farm laborers and those who work for an employer who has fewer than three regular employees.
There are two types of compensable injuries in Virginia Workers’ Compensation:
- Injury by accident. The employee must be able to identify the specific moment an injury occurred. For example, if the employee hurt his back lifting boxes, he must be able to remember a specific box, at a specific time, when he felt an injury occur. Virginia does not recognize repetitive motion injuries except carpal tunnel and gradual onset hearing loss if they were diagnosed after July 1, 1997, and if they were clearly caused by employment.
- Occupational diseases. Certain occupational diseases are covered in Virginia, such as asbestosis and pneumoconiosis (black lung disease). The employee must have specific information relating the disease to the employment. Once a problem is suspected, the employee should have the problem examined, and if diagnosed, take prompt action.
What to Do When You Get Hurt
If you get hurt on the job, immediately tell your supervisor and give written notice. The Workers’ Compensation Act gives you 30 days to provide written notice, at which point the burden shifts to the employer to file an accident report, which then begins the compensation process. In the case of an occupational disease, give written notice as soon as possible after the diagnosis.
After the accident report is filed, the insurance company responsible for compensation benefits will often call the employee to get recorded statements. It is important that the employee NOT give a recorded statement outside of the presence of an attorney. If you do not yet have an attorney, tell the adjuster that you are seeking counsel and will have your attorney contact them.