Workers’ Compensation is a painfully slow process. I’m not trying to scare anyone but as an injured worker, you need to know what to expect when dealing with this process. Also, there are several processes within the process – a claim has to be formally approved or denied before a hearing can be scheduled, records have to be gathered and reviewed, interrogatories and depositions have to take place before the actual hearing takes place, a disability rating must be issued before an injured workers can receive Permanent Partial Disability benefits and so on.
This is EXTREMELY frustrating for people who are dealing with life changing injuries. My office gets several phone calls from injured workers who are aggravated with this slow moving system and I can certainly understand why – it would be difficult for anyone to go (in some cases) months without a paycheck or having to pay for tremendously expensive medical care and then wait to be reimbursed after a hearing.
Some people are fortunate enough to be receiving their medical care through the insurance company without having to wait for a hearing; they just have to wait for the adjuster to approve the treatment requested by the doctor; which can also take several weeks. And, to make matters more frustrating, most people tell me that they have a very hard time getting a hold of the adjuster at all. I tell them this is common but I also encourage them not to give up on their benefits.
There is also the issue of medical records and documentation. For Workers’ Compensation purposes, many steps in the legal process cannot take place until certain records have been reviewed and analyzed by the insurance company and/or the attorneys. Insurance Companies need to review the records before they will approve any treatment and attorneys need to review them before filing requests with the Commission. The process of requesting and receiving medical records alone can take several weeks.
There are also some processes that do not have any time limits associated with them. For example, once a settlement has been reached by the parties, some time limits go into effect, however there are no formal rules on the length of negotiations. Simply put – some cases can settle in a few weeks, some can take a year, while others may never settle.
We call this the “Hurry up & Wait” because there are things that need to be done right away and some things that need to be done later on as part of a process. A lot of the people who I talk to are feeling picked on or singled out by the system when, in some cases, things are moving a long as they should be. It is ALWAYS a good idea to consult an attorney to see what you could expect with your particular situation. To get some perspective on your circumstances and what time limits you may need to be aware of 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.