Monday, January 26, 2015

Can you still get Virginia Workers' Compensation benefits if your motor vehicle accident was caused by use of a cell phone?

As most people are aware an increasing cause of motor vehicle  accidents is the driver being distracted by his or her use of a cell phone.

In the past, the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission has allowed coverage for injured workers who   have an accident caused by use of the company business cell phone while driving. The reason for compensability is the use of the cell phone is a risk of the employment.

However, the 2015 Virginia General Assembly almost ended this workers' compensation coverage. A bill was proposed making it a crime to drive a motor vehicle and use a cell phone at the same time. In Virginia it was already a crime for a teenager to use a cell phone while driving. The proposed bill would extend this prohibition to all adults. The bill did not pass. It was referred to a committee for more study.

If the bill had passed, it would probably be impossible to obtain workers' compensation benefits in Virignia if your motor vehicle accident was caused by cell phone use. This is so because the insurer would assert you cannot obtain benefits if you were committing a "crime" at the time.

This means the Turpin Case is still good law in Virginia. The Commission said in that case:

Commissioner Roger L. Williams issued the opinion for the Commission, ultimately deciding that the employer was liable for workers’ compensation and stated that it didn’t matter who footed the bill for the cell phone, what mattered in this case was Ms. Turpin’s duty to be attentive to the cell phone while on-call and that her attentiveness to the ringing cell phone and potential work-contact was enough to cause her to be inattentive to her driving. "There was no way the claimant would know, in advance, whether a particular call was employment related. She was required to answer her cell phone, and be attentive to it, because it could have been an employment-related call." Turpin v. Wythe County Community Hospital, VWC File No. 0000018-30-28, 5 (December 29, 2010).

In summary, in Virginia you can still hope to obtain workers' compensation benefits even though your motor vehicle accident was "caused" by use of a cell phone.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: call Jerry Lutkenhaus at (804) 358-4766 or 1(800) 256-8862 or visit our website at Virginia Workers' Compensation Lawyer.

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Seven ways to lose your Virginia Workers Compensation Rights!

You have an accident at work in Virginia. The insurer accepts the claim. It sends you an agreement form which you sign and return and the insurer files it with the Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission. The Commission enters an award for weekly compensation and lifetime medical rights for your injury.

But as soon as you are on compensation the insurer looks for ways to cut it off. These are some of the common ways this is done.

1.  Obtaining a doctor's release. The insurer will often assign a Nurse Case Manager to your case. The Nurse will attend your doctor's appointments and often request the doctor to release you back to work before you are ready.

2.  The Employer creates a job. You cannot do your pre-injury job so the Employer creates a job you can do. Sometimes this can be no more than sitting and doing nothing. Sometimes it will be sitting at a desk answering the phone. If the Employee refuses to do the job, the insurer can cancel your future compensation rights.

3.  The False Light Duty Job. The Employer provides a light duty job which is "not" a light duty job and violates the doctor's restrictions. You refuse to do it and the Employer tells the insurer your refused a light duty job.

4.  Video Surveillance. The insurer assigns a private investigator to your case. He takes a video which shows you can do much more than what you told the doctor or the video shows you working on the side.

5.  The Independent Medical Examination (IME). The insurer often thinks your doctor is too claimant oriented. Then the insurer will schedule the claimant to be examined by an insurance company doctor. This exam will not be "independent" even though it has that name. If the IME doctor says you can work, the insurer will attempt to cut off the claimant's compensation.

6.  Employer Harassment. Even if you are successfully doing the light duty job the Employer provides, the Employer or other employees may harass you thinking you are faking or exaggerating your disability. If you get frustrated by this and walk off the job, the insurer can use this to cut off future compensation.

7.  The Bad Functional Capacity Evaluation (FCE). Many doctors do not like to set work restrictions. Instead, they will prefer that this be done by therapists trained as disability examiners. However, the insurers know the disability examiners who are friendly to the insurers. Often, these will claim the injured worker did not give full effort during the exam or was faking his or her complaints.

In summary, these are seven ways to lose your workers compensation rights in Virginia.

FOR MORE INFORMATION: Call Jerry Lutkenhaus at (804) 358-4766 or toll-free at 1(800) 256-8862 or visit our website at Virginia Workers' Compenastion Lawyer.