When you are considering accepting a settlement for your Virginia Workers Compensation Claim, you should really talk to a lawyer. Settlement is a complicated process and there is no magic number or magic formula for calculating the settlement value of your claim. I’ve compiled a list below to give you an idea of the things that drive the value of your workers compensation settlement.
- Is this a Compensable Injury or Occupational Disease Under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act?
Virginia has some very specific rules when it comes to what is or is not covered by workers compensation benefits. Simply being at work or being on the clock at the time of the injury does not mean you are automatically covered. So, if your situation does not meet the rules set forth by the state of Virginia and there is a strong chance you could lose at a hearing, your claim will likely settle for a much lower amount.
- Future Medical Treatment
If you are still actively seeing the workers comp doctor and getting treatment for your injuries or illness, you need to talk to your doctor and your lawyer to get an idea of what medical care the doctor says you will need in the future. The cost of the needed future medical care drives the settlement value for this portion of your claim. For example, if you have stopped treating with the doctor then your settlement value will be lower but if your doctor says you are in need of surgery (and this usually means rehab therapy and likely medication and follow up visits with the doctor), your settlement value would likely be much higher.
- Specific Body Parts Affected by Your Injury or Illness
The Virginia Workers Compensation Act assigns specific values to parts of the body (assigned in weeks – see the index in the back of my book “The Ultimate Guide to Workers Compensation in Virginia”). Some body parts are assigned a higher number of weeks than others that can be assigned a disability rating (this is how Permanent Partial Disability Benefits are paid out), while the neck and back are not given a rating.
- Your Earnings at the Time of the Injury
All wage benefits in Virginia are based on your pre-injury average weekly wage (AWW). The AWW determines how much you can receive in workers compensation lost wage benefits while the doctor has you out of work or on restricted duty. Your AWW will also be used as a factor to determine the payment amount for any Permanent Partial Disability Benefits (see above). If you were earning $250.00 a week when you were injured, your settlement will likely be much lower than if you were earning $800.00 a week at the time of the injury.
- Your Ability to Return to the Workforce and the Severity of Your Injury or Illness
Are you able to return to your previous position or has the doctor instructed you to find other employment or possibly given you a permanent light duty work status? If the doctor says you can never return to your prior job due to the physical requirements then your case is going to be worth more than if you have been released to full duty work. The bottom line here is, if the doctor does let you rejoin the workforce, the more restrictions the doctor places on you (limitations to your standing, walking, sitting, lifting, pushing/pulling, driving, hours) the harder it will be for the insurance company to find you a job which will increase the value of your settlement.
- The Number of Weeks You Have Already Been Out of Work
In Virginia, you can only receive Temporary Total Disability (TTD) Benefits for 500 weeks. So if you have been out of work and receiving a TTD check for 400 weeks, your settlement value would be less than if you had only been out for 25 weeks.
As you can see, none of the items on this list above give a dollar value; settlement is complicated and each of the items above can be very different for each injured worker depending on your situation. If you are considering settling your workers compensation claim, do yourself a favor and consult a professional! My team is standing by to assist you at (804) 755-7755.
About the Author: Michele Lewane
The Injured Workers Law Firm is a Richmond, Virginia based firm solely focused on serving clients with workers' compensation claims in Virginia. If you have questions about your benefits or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order our book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia” , or call our office today (804) 755-7755.