Thursday, November 20, 2014

Injury on the Job in Virginia? Sign the Agreement for an Award right away!

In my opinion which was confirmed in a recent seminar, the injured worker should sign and return the Agreement for an Award form as soon as he/she receives it and return it to the claims adjuster for filing with the Commission.

If the insurance company accepts your injury in Virginia, the carrier is required to send the injured worker a form called the Agreement for an Award. This paper will spell out the injury that is covered, the compensation rate, the period that is being paid, and that lifetime medical care for that injury is being awarded. After both the worker and the claims adjuster sign the Agreement form, the carrier will normally forward it on to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission and an award will be entered.

At a recent workers’ compensation seminar provided by the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, a Commissioner explained labeling an injury a ‘back strain” will usually cover all injuries to the back such as herniated discs. However, to be safe it doesn’t hurt to file for an amendment to the award and add such additional body parts.

Also, the Commissioner pointed out recent case law confirmed signing an agreement for one body part does not preclude one from filing later to add additional body parts as long as the new claim is filed within two (2) years of the date of the accident.

On the other hand, the Commissioner if a claim is litigated then this litigation may preclude the worker from adding additional body parts if those claims are not specifically reserved in the litigation. Thus, the Agreement for an Award does not have the same preclusive effect as does a litigated case.

The rationale is Agreements for an Award and favored by the Commission as part of its administrative function. Agreements are not to be used as “traps” by carriers to foreclose claimants from their truly meritorious claims. So, injured workers sign those Agreements and mail them back to the claims adjusters.

However, if you don't quickly receive an Award from the Commission, you can always file a claim for your injury within two (2) years of your accident with the Commission.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: contact Jerry Lutkenhaus at (804) 358-4766 or (800) 256-8862 or visit our website at Virginia Workers Compensation Lawyer.