Being injured on the job can be a devastating event for hardworking West Virginians and their families. Not only do injured workers face the prospect of missing out on much needed income while they try to recover, but their financial obligations often increase significantly because of needed medical and other knock-on costs, like driving to and from doctor’s appointments or purchasing over-the-counter medications or devices to help recover that typically are not covered by insurance. If you find yourself in such an unfortunate situation, here are a few things to keep in mind.
First, you should notify your employer and/or the West Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission of the incident and your injuries right away. Typically, when an injured worker reports his injury to his employer, the employer will report the incident to the appropriate workers’ compensation claims official, but not always. So, it is critical that you make certain that the incident is timely reported to workers’ comp., either by your employer or directly by you if necessary. You only have a certain amount of time to file a workers’ compensation claim or you could be forever barred from receiving any compensation for your on-the-job injury. In West Virginia, that limitations period can be as early as six (6) months from the date of your injury!
Second, you should contact a qualified attorney to discuss the circumstances of your on-the-job injury. Even though workers’ compensation is a no-fault system (meaning you don’t have to prove your employer did anything wrong to receive benefits), compensation benefits are limited in scope and often times not nearly sufficient to put the injured worker back as close to the same position as possible that they were in before the injury-causing incident. Fortunately, West Virginia law recognizes this reality and permits an injured worker to bring a civil lawsuit against the employer, for additional money damages over and above the benefits that the injured worker receives through workers’ compensation where certain conditions are met.
This civil lawsuit is commonly known in West Virginia as a deliberate intent claim. This claim requires the injured worker to meet a rigorous set of standards, but in a nutshell, if your employer has actual knowledge of the existence of an unsafe condition in your workplace that violated a state or federal regulation, or a well-known safety standard, but still exposes you to that unsafe working condition and that condition causes your injury, you may be able to recover additional damages.
Oftentimes, the most devastating harms and losses in a workplace injury situation involve the permanent changes to one’s life in terms of their ability and capability to do things they enjoy and provide physical and emotional support to their loved ones. While workers’ compensation benefits are adequate to cover medical expenses and portions of lost wages for a time, that system is not really designed to compensate injured workers for their human losses. But West Virginia’s deliberate intent framework takes such losses into account. Therefore, if you have been hurt on the job, you should give some thought to the root cause(s) of your injury and contact an experienced lawyer, even if you don’t need a lawyer for your workers’ compensation claim, as soon as possible to explore the possibility of a deliberate intent claim as well.