For many of my clients, the most frustrating part of workers compensation is how long the process takes. They are surprised to hear that it can take years for a comp claim to resolve.
Unfortunately a lot of Virginia workers compensation claims do move slowly. And many injured workers soon find out firsthand just how long it can take to get an award order entered or to receive a lump sum workers comp settlement.
This article provides three common reasons why workers comp claims take so long to resolve. If you have a question about your case, contact workers comp attorney Corey Pollard for a free, no obligation consultation.
1. Litigation is slow
Many workers compensation claims involve disputes. Common areas of disagreement in comp claims include: the pre-injury average weekly wage; whether there is an injury by accident arising out of a specific risk of the employment; whether the ongoing disability and medical treatment are related to an injury by accident or to a preexisting condition; and, whether the injured worker’s job search efforts are adequate under the Commission’s Vocational Rehabilitation Guidelines.
In disputed claims investigation is necessary. Investigation and workers comp discovery take time. And discovery takes even longer when you need to get opinions from expert witnesses like physicians and accident reconstruction engineers or when you need to depose co-workers and eye witnesses with their own busy schedules. Though you can try to shortcut discovery to get a quicker workers compensation hearing date, you’re hurting yourself by failing to build and develop the evidence necessary to prove your legal right to workers compensation benefits.
Discovery isn’t the only reason that litigation can take so long. The Virginia Workers Compensation Commission hears thousands of cases each year. It can take many months to get a hearing date that works for the deputy commissioner, attorneys, and witnesses involved.
2. Working with unmotivated insurance adjusters
In Virginia all workers compensation settlements are voluntary. There is no way to force the insurance company to make a reasonable settlement offer. So if the adjuster refuses to respond to settlement demands there is not much you can do about it.
I have found that more aggressive insurance adjusters who stay on top of their claims and who know how to defend and value a case are better to work with than adjusters who are too busy to respond to claimants’ attorneys. Though it can be frustrating to deal with adjusters who work up their cases and fight every issue, in my experience these are the adjusters who are the most interested in reaching a fair resolution so that they can release the reserves set aside for the claim.
Likewise, I’ve found that experienced defense attorneys are better to work with than inexperienced attorneys such as new associates with insurance defense firms and other lawyers who handle just a handful of comp claims each year. At least ten times per year the attorney representing the insurance company is inexperienced and unfamiliar with the Rules of the Virginia Workers Compensation Commission and updated case law. These claims always take longer to resolve because the other attorney is inefficient and unfamiliar with how the deputy commissioner assigned to the case is likely to decide the claim.
3. The employer requires a resignation
Some employers and insurance companies require the injured worker to resign their employment as a term of settlement. If you’re an injured worker who has spent your entire career working for the same employer or who works in an industry with limited job opportunities, then it doesn’t make sense to resolve your comp claim for a settlement worth just a fraction of the temporary total disability, permanent disability, and lifetime medical benefits you may be entitled to. It could take you months or even years to find a new job that you enjoy and that you can perform given your restrictions.
If you want to settle your claim but the employer requires you to resign to do so, then I recommend starting to look for other employment. If and when you find other employment, notify your attorney so that he can start to negotiate a lump sum settlement. Depending on how easy it is for you to find a job making the same amount of money or more, this step can add several months to the claim process.
Call, text, or email us if you’re an injured worker in Richmond, Newport News, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Virginia Beach, Roanoke, or anywhere else in Virginia. We’re here to help you and your family. And if you’re unable to return to work, we can help you get approved for Social Security disability benefits.