In Virginia those accidents which occur both on the job and have a resulting personal injury case are some of the most complicated claims to pursue. This is because the Virginia Code provides for an interaction between these two cases. Let’s look at an example: In Virginia, if you are driving while working and have a car accident, you may have a compensable workers' compensation claim. You may also have a personal injury case against the driver that caused the accident.
Under those circumstances, for any benefits that the compensation carrier has paid to you, such as medical costs, lost wages, mileage reimbursement, etc. as part of the workers’ compensation claim, they have a “lien” or “right of payback” out of any money received in your personal injury case.
So, if the compensation carrier had to pay $10,000 in medical bills for your broken arm and $5,000 in lost wages for the time you missed from work due to that arm, they have a lien for $15,000. Then, if you pursue a personal injury case against the driver that hit you and you get a settlement of $100,000 in that case, the workers’ compensation carrier is going to be entitled reimbursement of the benefits they have paid out. So now out of your $100,000 proceeds you may not get $15,000 of it because the compensation carrier is entitled to get that back. This is dictated by statute. It is not something you can avoid unless you have the assistance of an attorney who can help you with solutions to try to reduce the lien payback of the workers’ compensation carrier. There are some limited exceptions to this rule. There are ways to negotiate this payback as part of the workers’ compensation case or part of the personal injury case. These are complicated issues that require the assistance of an attorney.
In addition if you settle the personal injury case without the approval of the worker’s compensation carrier, you are forfeiting your right to any future workers’ compensation benefits arising out of your case. This is a huge pitfall for injured workers’ with combined cases. If you have a personal injury attorney who does not regularly deal with workers’ compensation benefits they may not be aware of this rule. Reinhardt|Harper|Davis specializes in handling combined cases and handling the workers’ compensation side of cases that personal injury firms may not be dealing with.
If you have questions about these issues or anything else related to your workers’ compensation case, please give us a call at (804) 294-2966.