I'm permanently injured from my work accident. What am I entitled to?
Many injured workers sustain an injury that is permanent. Virginia Workers Compensation Law provides compensation for permanent injuries in two ways. Under very specific and very limited circumstances an injured worker may be entitled to wage loss benefits beyond the 500 week limit and, potentially, for their life. These are called Permanent Total Disability claims. These types of cases primarily involve brain injuries and accidents that cause severe injuries to two or more limbs. A vast majority of cases that come through the Virginia Workers Compensation Commission do not trigger this type of entitlement. However, many injured have permanent injuries that cause partial disability. This is called permanent partial disability
What is permanent partial disability under the Virginia Workers Compensation Act?
An injured worker can receive compensation for the permanent loss (dismemberment) or functional loss of use to a leg, arm, foot, toe, finger etc. and for permanent loss of vision or hearing. In addition if an injured worker is disfigured as a result of an accident, benefits may be awarded. While an injured worker may receive benefits for specific body parts, the injured worker cannot receive benefits for permanent loss of use to his or her neck or back. It is important to understand that an injured worker can be awarded these types of benefits even if the injured worker has returned to work. However, permanent partial disability benefits may not be awarded until the injury has reached "maximum medical improvement." This is a medical way of saying that an injured worker has recovered to the extent possible. There are time limitations that govern when a permanent partial disability claim can be filed. The Courts have found that the law does not require that medical evidence of a permanent partial rating be submitted before the time limitation is exhausted but the claim must be filed before that time.
Typically, a claim for permanent partial disability benefits must be filed within 3 years of the date of the last temporary total or temporary partial payment that is made to the injured worker. There are exceptions to this rule, but this is the general rule. It is also important to understand that an injured worker can receive temporary partial or temporary total benefits for one year after permanent benefits are paid.
How are permanent partial benefits calculated?
Virginia law sets out the maximum number of weeks that can be paid for a particular injury. For example, a 100% loss of use to a leg will be awarded 175 weeks. If an injured worker loses 50% use of the leg, the injured worker will be awarded 87.5 weeks. Once the number of weeks is calculated, that number is multiplied by the injured workers "compensation rate".
Permanent disability claims can be complex and many issues arise in the course of litigating such claims.