Virginia employers with three or more employees are generally subject to the Workers’ Compensation Act which requires workers’ compensation coverage (through an insurance company or through self-insurance) at no cost to its employees.
Workers’ compensation is a form of insurance used to provide compensation to employees who are injured in the course and scope of their employment. The insurance protects the employer against legal liability for the injury. To get benefits, employees need only show they were injured while on the job from some workplace risk. Fault is usually not an issue, unlike in a a car crash case, bicycle accident injury or trip and fall claim.
Coverage is limited to those having the status of an employee, as opposed to an independent contractor. The distinction between an employee and independent contractor is hazy, at best. While hours, uniforms, method of payment are important, the issue of "control" is usually the most important factor the workers comp judges consider.
In Virginia, the law strictly bars an employee from suing their employer or co-worker for an injury that occurs on the job. However, Virginia law does allow the injured worker to retain the right to sue a “third party” whose negligence caused or contributed to the worker’s injury, even if the worker receives workers’ compensation (i.e. ABRAMS LANDAU represented a truck driver who was injured in a car accident due to the fault of another driver, and recovered BOTH workers comp benefits AND a settlement in the 3rd party liability case).
A “third party” is a person who is not a co-worker or in the “same trade or occupation” as the injured employee. There are widespread differences among the states as to who constitutes a third-party.
If the worker recovers money from the negligent third party, the worker is required to repay the employer or insurer who paid workers’ compensation benefits. This law was designed to allow the injured worker to get only "one full recovery."
In Virginia, according to Doug Landau of the Landau Law Shop, an injured employee must generally file a claim within two years from the date of the accident or any right to benefits may be lost. Landau adds, "while workers compensation laws differ from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, they each generally share the purpose of ensuring that injured workers, as well as their dependents, receive limited medical and wage replacement benefits without question of fault."
The worker’s compensation system is complex. And as such you should have an experienced lawyer handling your Virginia workers’ compensation claim. You should also wwatch several comp hearings before your turn to go to court. For more information about Workers’ Compensation laws in Virginia, please refer to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission (VWC) Web site.