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HOW THE WAITING GAME WILL RUIN YOUR CASE RIGHTS? WHAT RIGHTS?
Not long ago, a case fell into my lap that I would have taken in a heartbeat. This guy, let’s call him John Smith, brought in the exact kind of case we’re equipped to handle. He was an older man who had severely injured his ankle while working at his manual-labor job, and his doctors were still advising him not to work because of his injuries. This case was basically a slam dunk. Unfortunately, when we spoke on the phone, John told me about a phenomenal mistake he made, and I was forced to tell him we couldn’t take his case. No, he didn’t quit his job. He did something much worse. John hurt himself well over two years ago. In the time since, he’s needed two surgeries and hasn’t been able to go back to work. But he never called a lawyer or tried to file a claim because his employer was voluntarily paying him. Then, when two years passed, they cut him off suddenly. Why? In Virginia, where John worked, you have two years to file a workers’ compensation claim. Once the statute of limitations expires, you are out of luck. It was only when he realized how much trouble he was in that John called our office. But by then, it was too late for us to do anything to help him. Unfortunately, we hear John’s story all the time. A worker gets hurt, and the employer tells them that they have taken care of
everything. The employer even voluntarily starts writing them checks after the accident. It seems perfect without lawyers or messy hearings involved. But the employer is not required to do this. If they voluntarily pay an employee after an injury, then they can voluntarily stop at any time, and where will you be then? Without an order requiring the employer to pay you from the Virginia Workers Compensation Commission, you are at the mercy of an employer’s good will. When it’s gone, you’re powerless to do anything about it. “If John had filed a claim, we’d probably be talking about a settlement with the insurance company right now.” A lot of people think they’re smarter than the insurance companies because they’ve heard an ad on TV telling them “not to sign anything.” To be honest, even other, non-workers’ comp attorneys might warn injured workers against signing anything their employer or the insurance company sends them. In personal injury or divorce cases, this makes sense. But workers’ comp
is complicated. If you want to have any shot of winning your case, you need to file a claim for benefits, and if you are sent an Award Agreement, you should sign it. If you let two years pass by without either filing your Claim for Benefits, or an Award Agreement signed by both parties is not filed, your case is dead and over, forever. If John had filed a claim, we’d probably be talking about a settlement with the insurance company right now. There’d be a bunch of money on the table. Instead, I referred John to another attorney who specializes in Social Security, so he might get on disability, but that’s not the equivalent of the workers’ comp benefits he could have been entitled to, and what’s more, he would still have the right to file for social security benefits, and get his lump sum settlement under workers comp — if only he had properly enforced his rights. It’s true that you shouldn’t sign anything right away. You should always speak to a workers’ comp attorney first. But if you called our office and said you have an Award Agreement in hand, we’d have you email, fax, or bring it down for us to read and probably recommend you sign it right that second. An Award Agreement is an
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If you belong to a union or other labor-related group and want to schedule my presentation at your group’s speaking arrangement, you can do so by calling 888-694-7994 . The presentation is free of charge, offers important information for taking appropriate action in Virginia workers’ compensation cases, and everyone in attendance gets a free copy of my book, “10 Traps and Lies That Can Ruin Your Virginia Workers’ Compensation Case.” Education is the best way to protect yourself from making a mistake. So call now, before it’s too late.
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