West Virginia Workplace Injury Attorneys
Employers in West Virginia with at least three employees must carry workers’ compensation insurance, which provides benefits to employees in case they are injured or develop a work-related illness while on the job.
Receiving all the benefits you deserve, however, is not always easy. The process can be confusing and overwhelming, and the insurance company is looking out for its interests, not yours.
The West Virginia workplace injury lawyers at Chaffin Luhana have decades of experience dealing with workers’ compensation claims and can help make sure you are treated fairly. Contact an experienced West Virginia workers’ compensation lawyer today.
Workplace Injuries in West Virginia
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), there were 46 fatal work injuries in West Virginia in 2019. The good news is that was down from the previous year (when there were 57 workplace fatal injuries), but that number is still unacceptable.
Transportation incidences resulted in 24 of those fatal work injuries, and exposure to harmful substances or environments accounted for 12 fatalities. These two major categories accounted for 78 percent of all workplace fatalities in the state.
Contact with objects and equipment was the third-most frequent fatal work event with eight fatalities. The private transportation and warehousing industry had the highest number (11) of fatalities in the state in 2019, while the private mining, quarrying, and oil and gas extraction industry had seven total workplace fatalities.
Nationwide, a total of 5,333 fatal work injuries were recorded in 2019, which was a two percent increase from the 5,250 recorded in 2018, and the highest annual number since 2007.
Workplace injuries and fatalities affect not only those who are injured and killed but their families as well, who are often forced to manage medical care and therapy as well as face financial hardships.
What Workers’ Compensation Benefits Am I Entitled To in West Virginia?
If you are injured on the job or develop a work-related illness in West Virginia, you may be entitled to the following benefits:
- Medical coverage: Workers’ compensation insurance pays for your medical treatments, prescriptions, physical therapy, doctors’ visits, hospitalizations, nursing services, laboratory services, and medical supplies, regardless of how long those treatments are needed. In addition, unlike many other states, employees in the state of West Virginia have the option to choose their own treating physician.
- Temporary total disability (TTD): If you can’t return to your job because of your injury, workers’ compensation insurance pays benefits at 66 2/3 of your weekly wages for a maximum of 104 weeks. The benefits are subject to minimums and maximums established under West Virginia work compensation law.
- Permanent total disability (PTD): If you are totally disabled by your injury and will not recover enough to do your job again, workers’ compensation insurance will pay benefits at 66 2/3 of your wage. Minimum and maximum payment amounts apply. Benefits are paid for the length of the disability or until you turn 65 years old.
- Permanent partial disability (PPD): If you have recovered as much as you are able but continue to have partial and permanent residual injuries, the insurance will pay 66 2/3 of your wage for up to 336 weeks. The amount of PPD payments made is based on a percentage of permanent total disability.
- Vocational rehabilitation benefits: If you can’t recover well enough to return to your old job but are still able to work at another job, the insurance may pay for vocational services like job retraining, job assessment, job modification, and job counseling.
- Death benefits: These are paid to a surviving spouse and children of a West Virginia employee who died from a workplace injury or occupational illness. These typically include a percentage of the deceased worker’s wage, along with paid burial expenses up to a maximum amount.
- Attorney fees: West Virginia workers’ compensation will pay attorney fees limited to 20 percent of any award by statute.
What Do I Do After a Workplace Injury?
The steps you want to take after a workplace injury are:
- Seek medical attention: Of course, you want to take care of your health first. Even if you think you weren’t hurt that badly, it’s important to see your doctor anyway. The rush of adrenaline can mask the seriousness of your injury, or you may suffer a back or neck injury that gets worse over time. You need your medical records to support your workers’ compensation claim, so always see a doctor as soon as possible.
- Report the injury to your employer: Let your immediate supervisor and/or your company’s human resources department know about the injury right away. You can tell them in person, call them, or contact them on the way to see your doctor. Follow-up by informing them in writing of the incident. Include details of what happened, how it happened, and how you were injured. Do this within the first few days of your injury. If you wait too long, you may have trouble with your claim.
- Call your workplace injury lawyer. You can file your workers’ compensation claim by yourself. Workers’ compensation is a no-fault system, which means you don’t have to prove that your employer did anything wrong to receive benefits. But compensation benefits are limited in scope and sometimes are not sufficient to cover a complete recovery, particularly in cases of severe injuries. The workers’ compensation insurance company has attorneys on its side, so you are best positioned to get all the benefits you deserve by having an attorney on your side, as well.
- Follow up on the claim: In most cases, your employer will file your claim to the workers’ compensation insurance after you inform the appropriate party of your injury, but not always. You have a limited amount of time to file the claim or you could be barred from doing so. Follow up with your employer to be sure the claim was filed. Ask to see a copy of it.
- Follow your doctor’s instructions: Make sure you go to all your doctor and therapy appointments, that you take your medications as instructed, and that you follow all of your doctor’s recommendations when it comes to your recovery. Failing to do so can give the insurance company reason to reduce your benefits.
Do I Have to See an Employer-Approved Doctor?
West Virginia is rather unique in that you can choose to see your own doctor. In many states, you have to go to one of your employer’s approved doctors, but in West Virginia, you can choose your treating physician. Keep in mind that some doctors will not handle workers’ compensation claims, so be sure to ask before you go.
What if My Claim is Denied?
Sometimes the workers’ compensation insurance company will deny your claim. Below are some common reasons why this may happen:
- The injury didn’t happen on the job: Your employer may say that you were not at work when the injury happened or were not on the clock.
- The injury resulted from a preexisting condition: Your employer questions the origin of your illness or injury, and claims that you had a preexisting condition that caused it.
- The injury wasn’t reported in time: In West Virginia, you are supposed to report an injury to your employer as soon as possible. Your employer may claim that you didn’t do so.
- You failed to seek medical treatment: If you spent some time trying to manage your illness or injury before seeing a doctor, your employer may claim that the problem was not as serious as you said it was.
- You were intoxicated at the time of the injury: If you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time of the injury, your claim may be denied.
If your claim was denied because of one of these or other reasons, that doesn’t mean you’re out of luck. You have a right to file an appeal to present your side of the story. A workplace injury attorney can be of great help in this process, as you will be required to submit medical records and other evidence to support your case, as well as to go through court hearings.
Your attorney can investigate your claim thoroughly, and present evidence showing that your injury occurred over an extended period, such as repetitive stress injuries and occupational illnesses, so you were not able to report it “in time.” Or your attorney can present evidence showing that your injury was not the result of a preexisting condition.
You must file an appeal within 60 days of receiving the insurance company’s decision, and you must do so in writing. There are several other steps you can take as well, including requesting a hearing and submitting new evidence. If you’re not successful in your first hearing, you can appeal the decision to the Worker’s Compensation Board of Review.
Are There Other Legal Actions I Can Take?
Because workers’ compensation is based on no-fault, usually it is your only option when it comes to getting benefits from your employer. There are exceptions to the rule, however.
If you were injured by a defective product, toxic substance, or careless contractor, you may be able to file a third-party claim against the manufacturer of the product or substance or the contractor and/or his or her employer. You may also be able to sue the owner of the property where the accident occurred if that owner is not a part of the company you work for.
Personal Injury Lawsuit
If you have evidence showing that you were injured because of your employer’s intentional or egregious conduct, you may be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit against that person.
Deliberate Intent Claim
Though employers are usually immune to lawsuits for injury damages, they lose that immunity when acting with “deliberate intent” to cause the employer’s injury. To establish a deliberate intent claim, the plaintiff must show that the following five elements were true:
- A specific unsafe working condition existed in the workplace which presented a high degree of risk and a strong probability of serious injury or death.
- The employer, before the injury, had actual knowledge of this unsafe working condition and the high level of risk.
- The unsafe working condition was a violation of a state or federal safety statute, rule, or regulation.
- Despite all this, the employer intentionally exposed an employee to the unsafe working condition.
- The employee suffered serious injury or death because of the unsafe condition.
Particularly if your injury is severe and your medical bills are high, investigating another possible route for compensation can be extremely beneficial to you and your family.
Will I Be Fired if I Report a Workplace Injury?
Some employees are afraid to report a workplace injury for fear of retaliation. In West Virginia, employees have specific rights concerning their employment after filing a workers’ compensation claim:
- Employers cannot discriminate against any employee because that employee received or tried to receive workers’ compensation benefits.
- Employers cannot cancel or decrease employee or dependent benefits while the employee is claiming or receiving workers’ compensation benefits.
- Employers cannot fire an injured employee while that employee is off work due to an injury, or while that employee is receiving or is eligible to receive temporary total disability benefits unless the employee commits a separate offense.
- An employer must allow an employee to return to work after he or she is cleared to do so by a medical doctor.
What if a Loved One Dies of a Workplace Injury?
In the worst-case scenario, an employee dies because of a workplace accident. In that case, the family has a right to file a workplace injury claim under the same conditions described above. If there were third parties involved that acted negligently or carelessly, the family may also file a wrongful death claim against those parties.
In West Virginia, the personal representative of the decedent’s estate is responsible for bringing the claim. A workplace injury lawyer’s assistance will help. Family members who may be entitled to share the damages include:
- Children, stepchildren, or adopted children
- Parents and siblings
- Other relatives who were dependent on the decedent’s income at the time of death
Common Types of Workplace Injuries
Though there are a wide variety of injuries and illnesses that may occur because of your work, below are some of the most common:
- Head and brain injuries
- Back, neck, and spine injuries
- Paraplegia and quadriplegia
- Internal bleeding and organ damage
- Repetitive motion injuries
- Illnesses from exposure to substances
- Broken bones
- Strains from overexertion
- Scarring and disfigurement
- Cuts and lacerations
- Vision and hearing damage
West Virginia Workplace Injury Attorney
If you or a loved one was injured at work, contact our workplace injury attorneys for help. We can assist in filing your initial claim, appealing a denied claim, appealing modified or halted benefits, filing a third-party personal injury claim, or filing a deliberate intent claim. Call today at 888-480-1123.
Workplace Injury Law Firm in West Virginia
West Virginia Office
3200 Main St.
Weirton, WV 26062