Once a client has retained us, they want to know “What’s next?” Well, the answer to that question is a long one. Here is a break down of what goes on in my office once you sign our Retainer Agreement and formally hire Injured Workers Law Firm to help you with your workers’ compensation claim.
- File the Notice of Representation – We notify the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, the insurance adjuster and, if applicable, the defense attorney who represents the insurance company that we are now representing you in your claim.
- Download to our file all documents on file with the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission – We do this to make sure we are aware of EVERY SINGLE request or submission made to the Commission on your claim. We also use this to check on your awards (to make sure they are correct or if they need to be amended).
- Request medical records and/or bills – The attorney will determine if we need to request any records related to your injury and we request these directly from the medial providers. It usually takes them about 30 days to get us your records.
- Request a copy of your recorded statement – The attorney will determine if this is needed and, if so, a request for a copy of the statement is sent to the insurance adjuster or their attorney.
- Request records from your Nurse Case Manager – If you have a Nurse Case Manager on your claim and if the attorney deems it appropriate, we will send a request for copies of their notes and anything else in their file related to your claim.
- Request records from the Vocational Rehabilitation Counselor – If there is a Vocational Rehab Counselor on your claim and if the attorney deems it appropriate, we will request copies of their notes and anything else in their file related to your claim.
- Request wage information – If you are receiving or if you are owed any lost wages, we will request wage information from the insurance carrier or their attorney to make sure you are being paid proper wages.
- Send you a “Welcome Package” – We send a “Welcome Package” to you to let you know that we are in the process of opening your file and gathering information on your claim. This package will also contain a list of “Who’s who” in our office and what they do.
- File the Claim for Benefits or Amend the Claim for Benefits – If needed, we will file the Claim for Benefits for you but most of the time this has already been done so the attorney will just confirm that the Claim for Benefits that has been filed is correct or, if needed, identify any changes that need to be made and file an Amended Claim for Benefits with the Commission.
- Determine if the proper Award Orders are in place – If you have been paid wages, the attorney will want an award in place for this. The Award is the enforceable document issued by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission. Simply getting a paycheck from the insurance company while you were out of work does not mean you are protected!
- Determine if you are eligible for cost of living adjustments – Depending on when your injury took place, you may be entitled to a cost of living adjustment. If the attorney finds that you are entitled to this increase in pay, we will get the form to you and supply instructions on how to fill it out. Once we get it back from you we will file it with the Commission and follow up until the owed adjustment(s) is paid to you.
- Determine if you are eligible for a permanent partial disability rating – The attorney will determine if it is appropriate to file for Permanent Partial Disability benefits. If you are eligible, you will be hearing from us about setting up an appointment with your doctor so you can be evaluated and have a Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE).
- Determine if there is medical causation – Once we get some of your medical records in the office (either from you or from the requests that we sent to your medical providers) the attorney will make sure that the medical records support your claim. Sometimes, after the attorney reviews the records, the attorney may decide we need more information (see number 14).
- Send a causation letter(s) to your doctor(s) – If the attorney finds that your case needs more support, we may send a letter or questionnaire to your doctor asking them to very specifically tell us how your current issues are a result of the work injury you sustained. This is very specific language that some doctors may not have used in their notes and this language is one of the key elements the Commission will look for in determining if you should be awarded benefits.
- Send subpoenas for any witnesses – If the insurance carrier or their attorney raise any issues about how you got hurt or if you were wearing your safety gear, etc., the attorney will determine who should be subpoenaed as a witness to your hearing. Also, if there are other records that need to be gathered (like an employee handbook), the attorney may choose to subpoena these as well or get them through the discovery process.
- Request a continuance or reschedule a hearing or deposition– Sometimes, people hire us a week or even a month before they have a hearing or deposition scheduled. In some cases, because of the time it takes to gather information in order to prepare for either of these things, we will ask the Commission or the defense attorney to reschedule some things to ensure that we have enough time to properly gather and review evidence on your claim.
- Evaluate your claim for settlement or a hearing – If you came to us because you want to settle your claim, the attorney will review all the documentation and determine, based on the Code of Virginia, what an appropriate settlement would be and draft a letter to the insurance carrier or their attorney requesting to open settlement negotiations. If you came to us because of an upcoming hearing, the attorney will be reviewing everything to make sure we will be successful in court and, if necessary, requesting any further documentation and information that we need from you or any of the parties to the case.
Obviously, not all of these steps will apply in every single claim but this is the general flow of a file here at Injured Workers Law Firm. It can be a slow process to get things moving but we have to make sure all the bases are covered so you sleep easy at night and know that we are on top of it!
If you have questions about your particular claim, please feel free to contact my office. Or, if you are new to the world of workers’ compensation and you would like some more information on how the system works order my book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia,” or call our office today (804) 755-7755.