Virginia workers’ compensation can be a painfully slow process. I’m not trying to frighten 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 (litigation) before the actual hearing takes place, a disability rating must be issued before an injured worker can receive Permanent Partial Disability benefits, and so on.
This can be EXTRAORDINARILY frustrating for anyone dealing with life changing injuries. My office gets calls from injured workers who are aggravated with this slow moving system and I can certainly understand why. It would be very difficult for anyone (in most cases) to go months without any income or medical treatment until the claim is taken to a hearing.
Some people are lucky enough to be receiving their medical care through the workers’ compensation 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. However, this, too, can take several weeks. And, to make matters more aggravating, most people tell me that they have a very hard time getting in contact with the insurance 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. To speed this along, I often encourage injured workers to send records directly to their adjuster if they are able to (but make sure you always keep a copy for yourself, as well!).
There are also some processes within this system that do not have any time limits at all. 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 (settlement is not a guarantee and all parties need to be willing to settle).
Simply put, when you are dealing with the workers compensation system, 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 neglected when, in some cases, things are moving along as they should be. It is ALWAYS a good idea to consult an attorney to see what you could expect with your particular situation because each claim is different.
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.