Many people that I talk to do not realize that when the insurance company pays voluntarily for lost wages or for medical care, this is not the same as having a formal Award through the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission. An Award from the Commission is something tangible you can hold in your hand, it comes from the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission (not the Insurance Company) and is an enforceable Order through the Commission. The Award Order also protects your rights against some time limits on filing for benefits and in other cases, extends time limits for your eligibility on certain benefits.
Many folks will tell me that they are being paid or their medical bills are being paid so “What’s the big deal?” Award Orders are a VERY BIG DEAL!!! Here’s why –
1) If you are voluntarily getting a weekly check from the Insurance Carrier and all of a sudden your checks stop coming; there is no AWARD in place saying that you are in fact entitled to that weekly check. YOU have to prove it at a hearing 4 to 6 months down the road.
2) If the Insurance Carrier stops paying for your medical care, there is no AWARD in place saying that you are granted medical coverage for your injuries related to your claim. YOU have to prove it at a hearing 4 to 6 months down the road.
3) If you receive benefits from the insurance carrier without the protection of an Award Order for your medical care or your wages, you could be barred from collecting future benefits because of failure to meet the Workers’ Comp Commission’s deadlines for filing and once these deadlines are missed, there is NOTHING you can do to re-open that door.
The Insurance Company is well aware of ALL of this; in fact, they love it when people don’t exercise their rights and get the protection of an Award Order because this oversight on the part of the injured worker could potentially save them thousands in benefits that they are not obligated to pay.
For more information on Award Orders, time limits and Virginia Workers Compensation, order my book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” by clicking this link, or call our office today (804) 755-7755.
Michele Lewane, Esq.