One of the most common questions we hear from clients is, “How long does it take to handle a workers’ compensation claim in Virginia?” Every case is different, but we can give you some examples and guidelines that should give you an idea of what you can expect when you file a workers’ compensation claim.
There can be many steps involved and many factors in the middle that can affect the outcome of a claim, as well as how long it will take to reach that outcome. Because of this, it is difficult to tell any one person when they should expect their workers’ comp claim to be resolved.
The time from filing a claim to complete resolution of that claim can vary widely. Some cases come to an end in less than six months while others may go on for two years or more. Overall, the average workers’ compensation claim is resolved in 15.7 months. Obviously, the severity of your injuries will play a big part in your case, but there are many other considerations as well.
Time Factors That Influence Your Workers’ Comp Claim
There are many people, many procedures, and a lot of coordination involved in getting through a workers’ compensation case in Virginia. Your employer, the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, doctors, and insurance company staff are just some of the people that will be involved in resolving your case in one way or another. The actions—or lack of action—of any of them, including yourself, will have an effect on how long your case goes on. Following are some of the biggest influences on the possible timeline.
Workers’ Compensation is a Slow Process to Begin With
The workers’ compensation system is slow moving by its very nature. There are many things to be submitted, approved, denied, negotiated, and filed. The entire process is extremely bureaucratic and involves a lot of information being passed through many hands, often multiple times, before any final decisions are made. Even comparably small and simple workers’ comp cases will take at least a few months to be fully resolved.
Whether or Not a Lawyer Represents the Injured Worker
It might sound strange, but in general, cases where the injured worker is represented by a workers’ comp lawyer tend to take longer than those where no lawyer is hired.
Don’t let that statistic throw you, though. It’s not a bad thing. The longer time to resolution for those cases comes with proven better results.
A lawyer will argue for you, dispute arguments made by your employer or the insurance company, and use his or her specialized knowledge and experience to your benefit. That means that it will probably add a bit of time to your case, but it will also add to the benefits you’re likely to receive.
Asking for a Higher Settlement
If you want to settle your work injury case, you may be happy with the initial settlement offer you receive, but anyone with experience will tell you that you should generally make at least one counter offer and ask for more. This, of course, will lead to some negotiating that will add some time to your case. Exactly how much time is hard to say, but the potential benefit is usually well worth it.
Medical Diagnosis And Delays
As you might expect, the insurance companies involved in any workers’ compensation case want to spend as little money as possible. They will often deny initial requests for medical treatment and can also ask for second opinions and independent medical exams to determine if you really need any given treatment or medication.
This means that you might end up seeing two or three different doctors for the same thing before the insurance company makes a decision. With serious injuries that require a lot of medical intervention and time to heal, going through these processes can add a significant amount of time before you finally a the resolution to your workers’ compensation case.
Failure to Follow Proper Procedures
It should almost go without saying that if things aren’t done the right way it will cause delays in your case. There are both deadlines for filings and waiting periods for information gathering that must be observed in order for things to move along. If you don’t file something on time, file something incorrectly, or don’t respond to requests from the insurance company or doctors, you could add months to the time you’ll wait—even destroy your chances of a successful workers’ compensation claim.
If you’ve been injured at work and have questions about filing a workers’ compensation claim in Virginia, the best thing you can do for yourself is speak to a qualified, experienced workers’ comp lawyer. Contact us today to set up a free consultation. We’d be happy to examine your case and discuss exactly what we can do to help you get through your claim and back to full health.
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.