I get calls from injured workers who are in a panic because they have not received their lost wage check for the week and they face the possibility of not being able to pay their mortgage/car payment/electric bill…you get the picture. When you are receiving a lost wage check from the insurance company, it is VERY IMPORTANT to have an Award Order. Award Orders put time limits on how late a check can be and allow you to claim a 20% penalty from the insurance carrier if the check is late.
Before you panic:
First, look at the dates on your last check. With workers’ compensation, it does not matter if you usually get paid on a certain day of the week, what matters is the date they last paid you through. Sometimes, depending on the situation, benefits are paid ahead of time – which means that just because you are used to getting a check on a Tuesday does not necessarily make it late. For example, if your check is dated 04/18/12 and it is paying you for the period 4/10/12 to 4/19/12, your next check would not be considered late until 5/04/12. This means the insurance company would have until 5/04/12 to MAIL you a check before it is considered late and a penalty could be requested. Fourteen days late does not mean 14 days since you last received a check – it means 14 days since the date they last paid you through. If you are not represented by a lawyer, you can call the insurance company directly.
If your check is late and you have a lawyer, they will follow up on it immediately; however, in Virginia, neither you nor your lawyer can do anything about a late check until the check is more than 14 days late pursuant to an Award Order. This means you need to be under an Award Order in order to hold them accountable for your payment and the penalty.
If your check is late and meets the 14 day requirement, your lawyer can ask for a late payment penalty of 20%. However, again, his 20% penalty fee only applies if you are under an Award Order. If you are being voluntarily paid, and there is no Order in place, the insurance company has not violated any order of the Commission and you are at their mercy.
If you are having issues with late checks or if you would like more information on the Virginia workers’ compensation system, order my book, “The Ultimate Guide to Workers’ Compensation in Virginia,” or call our office today (804) 755-7755.
Michele Lewane, Esq.