Workers’ compensation benefits are designed to help those who suffer a serious injury on the job continue to make ends meet and receive medical treatment to help them recover as much as possible. However, even with substantial treatment, some injuries are impossible to fully recover from, and the most serious of which may prevent you from being able to gainfully work again. Thanks to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act, these most severe injuries may qualify a worker for lifetime medical benefits and treatment coverage.
On this blog, we’ll discuss what makes someone eligible for lifelong benefits and help you determine whether or not your condition may qualify.
There are a number of workers’ compensation benefits available to those who are severely injured on the job, and you have the right to all of them. For starters, your continual medical treatment and rehabilitation should be covered for as long as you’re still suffering from the effects of your injury. You have the right to having your hospitalizations covered, so long as they are related to the effects of your injury. Other benefits include mental health treatment, medical treatment from specialists, and surgery, procedure, and injection coverage.
Finally, you are also entitled to have a portion of your wages covered under this act. However, wage replacement is generally capped: you can only receive your benefits until you either fully recover and return to work, or you reach 500 weeks on disability (which is a little under 10 years).
“Permanent & Total Incapacity”
While this cap of 500 weeks is generally enforced in all situations, there is a way you can claim these benefits for the rest of your life: by being declared “permanently and totally incapacitated.” Essentially this means that you have been incapacitated to the point where you cannot be gainfully employed again, and that your condition cannot be reasonably expected to improve with reasonable treatment.
These declarations are usually reserved for only the most severe injuries, including the loss of:
- Both hands
- Both arms
- Both legs
- Both eyes
- Any two of these body parts in the same accident
Those who suffer total paralysis as a result of a workplace injury are also considered to be permanently and totally incapacitated, as are those who have suffered a traumatic brain injury that’s severe enough to render you permanently unemployable.
There are a few important parts to these qualifiers. First, the term “loss” doesn’t necessarily mean losing the body part entirely, such as in an amputation. In fact, you may still be able to use the body part to walk around the house. What it does mean is you have lost the ability to use that part of your body in any substantial degree during any sort of gainful employment.
As a general rule, you need to be declared at least 50 percent impaired in two or more parts of your body in order to qualify for permanent and total incapacity. An injury to one part of your body may render you permanently disabled, but you may not be totally disabled to the point where you can’t be gainfully employed in a different position. If this is the case, you may still be entitled to medical coverage and benefits for conditions relating to your injury, but it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to continue to receive wage replacement benefits as well.To learn more about permanent disability and your rights under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act, call Harbison & Kavanagh at (804) 823-2050 to request a case evaluation with our Richmond workers’ compensation attorneys!