How to File a Workers' Compensation Claim in Virginia

Learn when and where to start your Virginia workers' comp claim.

Virginia workers’ compensation pays benefits to employees who are injured on the job. Workers may receive medical treatment, compensation for wage loss, and other financial assistance. To collect benefits, you must meet certain requirements—including reporting your injury to your employer and making a timely claim for benefits.

How Does the Virginia Workers’ Compensation System Work?

In Virginia, most employers must have workers’ compensation coverage—either by purchasing a workers’ comp policy from a private insurance company or by receiving certification from the state to self-insure. The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission (VWC) oversees all workers’ comp claims in the state.

Like all other states, Virginia has a no-fault workers’ compensation system. You do not need to show that your employer acted carelessly in order to receive benefits. As long as your injury happened on the job or was caused by your work activities, you will typically be eligible for benefits.

Eligible workers may receive a variety of benefits, including:

  • wage replacement benefits
  • permanent impairment benefits (for amputations or loss of use of a body part)
  • reasonable and necessary medical care, and
  • vocational rehabilitation (training or education for a new line of work).

To learn more, see our Workers' Compensation Benefits page.

How Do I Report an Injury?

Notifying your employer is the first step to starting a workers’ compensation claim. In Virginia, you must promptly notify your employer of a work-related injury in writing. If you fail to do so within 30 days, you may lose some or all of your benefits.

When you notify your employer, provide as much detail as possible, including:

  • your contact information (name and address)
  • when the accident happened
  • how you hurt yourself, and
  • what symptoms you are experiencing.

Once you report an injury, your employer should provide you with a panel of physicians to choose from. Unless you need emergency treatment, you typically must treat with a listed physician. It is important to provide the doctor with accurate information about the cause of your injuries and the severity of your symptoms. Insurance companies rely heavily on medical records of initial treatment when they evaluate claims. Either downplaying or exaggerating your symptoms may result in a denial of benefits.

How Do I File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

Reporting a work injury does not automatically start a Virginia workers’ compensation claim. You must also file a Claim for Benefits Form (Form 5) with the VWC in order to receive benefits. There are several ways to file a claim:

You must file your claim within two years of your workplace injury. If you have an occupational illness that developed over time, you typically must file a claim within two years of discovering its relationship to your work or within five years of your workplace exposure. However, some diseases (such as asbestosis) have different filing deadlines. If you need help calculating the filing deadline in your claim, contact a workers’ comp lawyer immediately.

What Happens After I Report My Injury?

Once it has received your claim, the insurance company will determine your eligibility for benefits. Its investigation may involve:

  • reviewing your medical records
  • analyzing your work experience, education, and wages
  • ordering a medical examination to assess your condition, and
  • sending you for a functional capacity evaluation (an assessment of your ability to perform work duties).

Under Virginia law, the insurance company must promptly approve or deny your workers’ compensation benefits. If your claim is approved, you will start receiving disability payments and other benefits. Unfortunately, insurance companies deny many workers’ compensation claims.

Appealing a Denied Workers’ Compensation Claim

If your claim is denied, you have the right to appeal. To begin the process, you must file a request for a hearing with VWC. Unless your claim is very simple, you should consider hiring a workers’ compensation lawyer. The insurance company will have a lawyer and you may be at a disadvantage if you proceed without an attorney. To learn more, see Should I Hire a Workers' Comp Attorney or Can I Handle My Own Case?

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