You may hear various people (including attorneys) throw around the phrase ‘indemnity benefits’ in your worker’s compensation case. But what are indemnity benefits? Simply put, they are the lost wages that you expect to be paid while you are earning less than you were earning before your work injury, due to your work injury.
These lost wages include any money that you aren’t making from your job, that you otherwise would be making, had you not been injured at work. They include the times that you are completely out of work, as well as those times that you are making less than you otherwise would because of your work restrictions. Virginia allows a maximum of 500 weeks of compensation for indemnity benefits, with one exception.
What Are Permanent Partial Disability Benefits?
Indemnity benefits also include permanent partial disability benefits. In Virginia workers compensation, this is the money you are paid for the loss of use you suffer to certain specifically mentioned body parts. These include an arm, leg, finger, toe, eyes, ears, etc. (Generally, your extremities.) The General Assembly has decided each of these specific body parts is worth a certain number of weeks of lost wages.
For example, an arm is worth 200 weeks of lost wages. Therefore, if you lost your entire arm in your work accident, you will be entitled to 200 weeks of compensation even if, through some miracle, you never lose a day of work. Most people don’t really lose the entire body part, but they do lose some percentage of that body part. Therefore, they would be entitled to that percentage of the total number of weeks the body part is worth.
Again, using the arm as an example, if, after you get as good as you are going to get, you still have a 10% loss of use according to your doctor, you would then be entitled to 10% of the full 200 weeks or 20 weeks of additional lost wages. This is true even if you return to work earning more than you were making before you got hurt.
This only applies to the body parts specifically mentioned in the Code of Virginia. Other states allow payments for a back rating or a whole person impairment rating. Virginia does not. You will not get any payments for a back impairment or a whole person impairment in Virginia.
What are Scarring Ratings?
Indemnity benefits can also include scarring ratings. This often happens in cases of burns. The scarring is bad, but the body part is still fully functional. If this is the case, you can get compensated for your scarring. The total number of weeks you can get for scarring is 60 weeks.
Typically, the judge determines how much of that potential 60 weeks you will be awarded based on how bad the scarring is. If you have both scarring and some loss of use, you cannot get both. You have to pick one or the other. If you are not sure which one would be a higher value, you should contact a workers compensation attorney.
How to Get Permanent Total Disability Benefits?
As I stated before, the total amount of indemnity benefits which you can receive in Virginia is 500 weeks with one exception. This means that the insurance company will only pay you, at most, 500 weeks of indemnity to include all lost wages, lowered wages, loss of use and scarring benefits UNLESS you qualify for permanent total disability benefits. It is not easy to get permanent total disability benefits in Virginia.
In order to qualify for more than 500 weeks of indemnity benefits in Virginia, you have to meet the very limited exception. This exception applies to people who were totally paralyzed in the work accident, who suffered a brain injury that renders then permanently unemployable in gainful employment, or, who injured both arms, both legs, both eyes, or any combination of these extremities in the same accident.
If you injured more than one extremity in the same accident, to be entitled to permanent total disability benefits, you have to have injured each body part to such a degree that you cannot substantially use either extremity in gainful employment. It is very difficult to get permanent total disability benefits in Virginia, so most indemnity benefits are stopped at 500 weeks.
Contact a Lawyer for Help
If you have questions about what indemnity benefits to which you are entitled, please contact a knowledgeable attorney about workers’ compensation benefits in Virginia. We will be glad to answer any questions we can.
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.