At Abrams Landau we represent multiple workers and families of workers injured and sometimes killed at work. Though Worker’s compensation was established to protect and provide for benefits to the widows and orphans of workplace fatalities, these laws vary from state to state. Though we have been very successful her in Virginia helping many injured workers and their families, there are statutes in the code that are need of modification. Sunday’s Washington Post addressed the issue of Virginia’s workers’ compensation laws pertaining to death and coma claims.
Virginia law generally presumes that when a person dies at a work site, it is considered a work-related injury. However, if the employee doesn’t die immediately, if he or she lingers in a coma and dies subsequently, then the injury and death are not assumed to be compensable.
I represent workers compensation claimants with brain injuries in VA, Maryland , and DC and my clients have been awarded compensation in cases where they can not recall the injury. However the rules differ in VA from the other two jurisdictions.
The difference is this:
In Maryland and DC when a worker dies on the job it is assumed to be compensable as a work related injury unless proven otherwise by the employer. In Virginia, the burden of proof falls on the dead employee. this creates a quite a "catch 22" Dead men can’t testify.
This injustice was addressed in the Washington post this past week. A local widow’s claim is being contested in VA because her husband lingered in coma rather than dying on the scene.
The post interviewed defense attorney Charles Midkiff who opines that a change in law would not be favorable to local business. I don’t think inconvenience to local business is reason to leave an outdated and unfair law on record. It harms widows and orphans who have lost a family member or are dealing with a comatose family member or a family provider who is plagued with a permanent brain injury.