Frequently Asked Questions
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I want to file a complaint about a nursing home with the Commonwealth of Virginia because I am worried about how they are caring for my family member. How do I file a complaint and will the nursing home find out that I complained?
In Virginia, you would file a complaint with the Department of Health Professions. You can submit a complaint in writing and mail, fax, e-mail, or hand-deliver it. You can download the complaint form here. You can also call 1-800-533-1560 and phone in a complaint. Finally, you can make a complaint in person at a department location during business hours.
It’s understandable that you are worried the nursing home will find out you filed a complaint. The fear of retaliation against the family member who may already be receiving substandard care is enough to prevent some people from filing a complain all together. We must stress that if you think a nursing home isn’t taking care of its residents or is violating the law, you should file a complaint. Complaints can be filed anonymously, though depending on the circumstances of the Department’s investigation, eventually your identity may have to be revealed.
While a complaint will alert authorities to the nursing home’s possible abuse, it will not provide compensation for your family member if he or she was already a victim of abuse. The Department can take regulatory and legal action against the nursing home – including shutting it down if violations warrant it – but the Department’s action is separate from a nursing home abuse lawsuit that would compensate your family member. If your family member has been the victim of neglect or abuse, contact our firm to talk to a lawyer who can help you evaluate your claim.
I had a gynecologic surgery and during the surgery the doctor nicked my ureter. The doctor didn’t realize I was injured until I was very sick. Do I have a claim?
Some common gynecologic surgeries include the use of a hysteroscope. Unfortunately, if a doctor does not exercise reasonable care during surgery he can cut, perforate, or even sever the ureter or other organs. Patients with a nicked ureter, perforated bowel, or perforated colon can become very sick or even die from the injury. Correcting this dangerous condition requires additional surgery that can lead to steep medical bills and lost wages during recovery.
Your doctor may have been negligent in damaging your ureter and failing to diagnose and treat the injury in a timely manner. Our medical malpractice attorneys have successfully litigated surgical error cases and obtained substantial settlements for our clients. For example, Jim Lewis negotiated a $400,000 settlement for a client with a ureter injury.
The statute of limitations to file a medical malpractice claim is two years in Virginia and three years in North Carolina. Treatment, recovery, and an often slow return to normal life can take a long time. If you believe your doctor was careless during or after your surgery, and you are wondering whether you should file a lawsuit, don’t wait to contact a knowledgeable lawyer to help you evaluate your claim.
Is there a class-action lawsuit against testosterone drug therapy manufacturers, and if there is do I have to join it if I want compensation for my injury?
There are a lot of lawsuits pending against the various testosterone drug therapy manufacturers, including suits against Androgel, Fortesta, Testim, Axiron. Lawyers have filed motions to consolidate all the lawsuits against all the manufacturers into one class-action lawsuit also known as a mass tort. If a judge decides to consolidate the cases, the only way you will be able to sue the manufacturer of the testosterone drug therapy medication that injured you will be to join the class-action suit against all the manufacturers. However, until that decision, you can still file an individual lawsuit against the manufacturer of your medication.
Consolidating the lawsuits into a class action suit has pros and cons. When you sue individually you are one person against a huge corporation. A corporation can draw out the litigation making it prohibitively expensive to continue. Being a member of a larger group helps to level the playing field; the class as a whole has more bargaining power to get a fair settlement. The major drawback of being a member of a class action lawsuit is that you have few options if you don’t like the proposed settlement. There are named plaintiffs in the case, and they decide whether to accept the settlement offer. Their decision is binding on you and the rest of the class. A judge must approve the settlement, and his job is to protect the interests of all class members, but once he approves the settlement you lose the right to have a trial and verdict.
If you are considering filing a lawsuit against a testosterone drug manufacturer, consider contacting our firm. We are experienced lawyers who are familiar with the newest developments in the ongoing testosterone drug therapy litigation, and we can help you evaluate your potential claim.
What kinds of benefits must my employer pay me if I’m entitled to workers’ compensation?
Workers’ compensation covers seven categories of benefits. Your employer must pay you for each category that applies to your specific situation. Here is a brief explanation of the seven categories:
1. Wage Replacement: You are entitled to 2/3 of your gross average weekly wage, up to 500 weeks, but not including the first seven days you are injured unless the disability lasts more than 3 weeks.
2. Lifetime Medical Benefits: As long as you file a claim within the time limit, your employer must pay your medical expenses from covered conditions for as long as necessary.
3. Permanent Partial Impairment: If you have lost the use of a body part such as an arm, you are entitled to benefits based on the percentage of loss, even if you are working, as long as you have reached maximum medical improvement. Unfortunately, back, neck, and whole body impairment is not included.
4. Permanent and Total Disability: If you have lost your hands, arms, feet, legs, eyes, or any two in the same accident, or if you were paralyzed or disabled from a severe brain injury, you are entitled to lifetime wage benefits.
5. Death Benefits: Some family members, such as a surviving spouse or minor child, may be entitled to benefits for lost wages when their loved one has died on the job. They may also be entitled to up to $10,000 in funeral expenses and up to $1,000 in transportation costs.
6. Cost of Living Increase: If you are receiving temporary total, permanent total, or death benefits, you can request this benefit each October if the combination of workers’ compensation and Social Security benefits is less than 80% of pre-injury earnings.
7. Vocational Rehabilitation: If you are well enough for a light duty job and are actively looking for one, even if you expect to return to your regular job, you may be entitled to retraining at no expense to you.
What types of injuries entitle me to workers’ compensation benefits?
If your injury is by accident or work-related disease, you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. As soon as possible after the injury, you should file a claim with the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission. The Commission will look at your claim and decide whether it is a covered injury.
To be covered as an accident, the accident must:
- Occur at work or during a work-related function
- Be caused by a work activity
- Happen suddenly at one specific time. Injuries caused gradually are generally not covered.
To be covered as a disease, it must be caused by your work. However, diseases of the back, neck, or spinal column are not covered.
If you aren’t sure whether your injury is one that entitles you to workers’ compensation benefits, consider contacting our firm, or visiting the Workers’ Compensation Commission website: https://www.workcomp.virginia.gov/portal/vwc-website
What do I do if my employer denies my workers’ compensation claim?
It is frustrating when you follow the rules, expecting that your employer will too, only to find out that your employer is refusing to pay for your injury. Your employer doesn’t get the final say, though. The Workers’ Compensation Committee has the ultimate authority to decide whether your employer must pay for your injury.
If your employer denies your claim or refuses to make payments for wages or medical bills, you should send a written request for a hearing to the Workers’ Compensation Committee. During your hearing, you have the opportunity to prove through your own testimony and medical records, and your witnesses’ testimony, that your work caused your injury or disability. If you were cleared for light work, you also must show that you have looked for work with your employer, filled out applications for other jobs, and registered with the Virginia Employment Commission.
This may sound like a daunting task, but you don’t have to do it alone. You are entitled to hire an attorney to represent you at the hearing. Our firm can help you prepare, and we will be there with you at your hearing to make sure you make the best case for your employer to pay you.
I requested a hearing before the Workers’ Compensation Commission because my employer refuses to pay workers’ comp benefits. What happens now?
First, you did the right thing by requesting a hearing. Generally, your hearing will be held in the city or county where the accident occurred, within 6-8 weeks of your request. A Deputy Commissioner will make the initial decision at this hearing, usually through a written opinion issued several weeks after the hearing.
There are two types of initial hearings: evidentiary and on-the-record. At an evidentiary hearing, you and your witnesses testify under oath about your accident or disease. You also submit evidence to support your claim for benefits. An evidentiary hearing is formal, like a court hearing. Sometimes the Commission will determine an evidentiary hearing is not necessary. In this case, you have an on-the-record hearing. Instead of appearing in person, you submit written statements and documents for the deputy commissioner to review. On-the-record hearings usually have quicker results than evidentiary hearings.
If you or your employer disagrees with the deputy commissioner’s decision, you both have the right to appeal the decision within 30 days to the Full Commission. You may be asked to submit written statements that it reviews along with the documents and statements submitted to the deputy commissioner. Sometimes the Commission will require oral arguments before making a decision. In either case, the Commission will review all the evidence and issue an opinion.
If the Full Commission decides against you, you still have two more appeals for review (and so does your employer) with the Court of Appeals of Virginia and the Supreme Court of Virginia. Few cases are appealed to this level, but it does happen.
Having an attorney represent you for your hearing can be extremely beneficial. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you gather the documents you need and make sure you are prepared for each step in the process. If you have filed for a hearing and are unsure what to do next, we encourage you to contact our go-to workers’ compensation lawyer, Randy Appleton.
What should I do if I’m injured at work and think I am entitled to workers’ compensation?
If you got injured while doing your job you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits, but you have several responsibilities before you can start receiving benefits. First, you must give notice to your employer as soon as possible that you are injured. Written notice is best. It’s also a good time to start a log of your communications with your employer.
Next, you must file a claim with the Workers’ Compensation Commission. You have two years to file a claim from the date of the accident or, in the case of an occupational disease, the date a doctor diagnosed you. Here is a link to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Claim for Benefits:
If you have medical reports from the injury at the time you file the claim, you should submit copies of those reports with the claim. If you don’t have them when you file the claim, it’s crucial that you file them with the Commission as soon as you have them. The Commission will not completely process your claim until you file medical reports.
Your employer has the option of providing you with a panel of three doctors you must choose from for medical treatment. Sometimes employers don’t provide a panel. In this case, you can seek treatment from any doctor. In either case, your treating physician can refer you to other doctors as appropriate. To continue receiving benefits, you have to cooperate with your doctor’s treatment plan, and you cannot switch doctors without either your employer’s approval or a hearing by the Commission.
Finally, if you are well enough to perform light duty work and your employer allows it, you have the responsibility to seek out and accept light duty employment. This includes filling out job applications on a weekly basis and registering with the Virginia Employment Commission.
If you would like more information about what you should do if you’re injured on the job, contact our firm or visit the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission website: https://www.workcomp.virginia.gov/portal/vwc-website.
If I'm receiving workers' compensation benefits, can I ever lose those benefits?
Yes, you can lose your benefits, or even have your benefits terminated. The Virginia Workers' Compensation Commission may suspend or terminate your benefits if you:
- Refuse to cooperate with vocational rehabilitation
- Refuse "reasonable" medical treatment
- Go back to full duty work
- Become incarcerated
- Collect 500 weeks of disability payments
- Receive a lump sum settlement
How long do I have to file a workers' compensation claim
This is a great (and commonly asked) question. You have 2 years from the date you were injured to file a claim for benefits.If your claim is for an occupational disease, it must be filed within 2 years from the date the doctor tells you the disease is work related, or five years from the date you were last exposed to the work condition causing the disease, whichever is sooner. Note: certain diseases like asbestosis, byssinosis, silicosis and coal workers' pneumoconiosis have different limitation periods.If, after returning to work, you suffer a disability, you must file a claim within 2 years of the date for which you were last paid compensation under an award. This is known as a "change in condition." Payment only goes back 90 days from the date of filing with the Workers' Compensation Commission.