When someone is in a major accident at work and is unable to work as a
result of injuries sustained in the accident, the injured party may recover
workers’ compensation benefits to cover medical bills and partial lost wages.
Several types of benefits are available depending on whether the worker
suffered a temporary or permanent disability, and whether the employee
is able to return to work.
Permanent total disability benefits, for example, cover employees who suffer severe injuries.
What constitutes a permanent and total disability?
Workers’ compensation rules in Virginia specify a permanent and total
disability as one where the worker loses both his or her hands, arms,
feet, legs, or eyes – or any two in the same accident. It also includes
workers who are paralyzed or are seriously disabled by a brain injury.
These workers are permanently and totally disabled, and therefore unable
to perform work they once performed.
What are the benefits for permanent total disability?
Workers who suffer a permanent and total disability may be entitled to
two-thirds of their average weekly wages prior to the injury for their
lifetime. Further, all medical expenses related to the injury are paid
for by the workers’ comp insurance company.
The worker must choose the doctor from a panel of three physicians who
the employer and/or insurance carrier provide – those who wish to
change a physician must get approval from the employer or insurer or from
the workers’ compensation commission.
What if I’m not totally disabled?
Workers who suffer a permanent injury but are not totally disabled, that
is, they are able to work, may be entitled to permanent partial disability
benefits instead. The number of weeks for which the worker can recover
these benefits is dependent on the body part injured as well as the percentage
of impairment assigned. However, this does not include “body as
a whole” disabilities or those affecting the back or neck.
For example, if an employee suffers the loss of a thumb while treating
waste at Alexandria Renew Enterprises, then this entitles the worker to
60 weeks of benefits, per Virginia Code §65.2-503. However, if the
worker’s thumb impairment is not a complete loss, a physician will
assign an impairment rating that dictates for how long the worker can
receive benefits. If 50 percent impaired, the worker can receive the benefits
(two-thirds of average weekly wages) for 30 weeks instead of 60.
Legal Help With Workers’ Comp Claims in Virginia
Unfortunately, some workers have trouble with insurance-chosen doctors
who may argue the worker isn’t totally disabled or may downplay
the impairment rating assigned. In these cases, an attorney can help employees
fighting the insurance company for fair benefits. If you have questions
about workers' compensation and your case,
contact The Barrera Law Firm, PLLC for a FREE consultation.