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Workers' compensation benefits can be delayed

When a North Carolina man was working his way through school at ITT Technical Institute with a job at a Best Buy warehouse in Virginia in 2007, he stood on a box that collapsed beneath him. He fell 7.5 feet and landed headfirst onto the concrete floor. The fall caused him to suffer a brain hemorrhage in addition to broken bones, a sprained neck and a ruptured eardrum. He also regularly suffers from headache and has dislocated his kneecap four times since the fall.

Because the fall happened in Virginia, the case falls under that state's jurisdiction. Like most states, Virginia has a workers' compensation system in place to help injured workers. However, many injured workers and legal professionals have noted flaws in the state's system. For example, if a worker hurts his or her back while carrying a series of heavy objects, compensation may not be available if the worker cannot identify the specific object that caused the injury.

Workers' compensation systems developed about a century ago in response to workers' need for help in the event of suffering a workplace injury. At the time, workers' had to go to court in order to seek aid with medical payments and lost wages, but the courts largely favored employers. In a compromise between workers' unions and business, states developed workers' compensation systems.

The North Carolina man finally had doctor-recommended surgery on his knee this year, and he managed to receive his bachelor's degree in July, seven years after the accident. Delays in workers' compensation cases are common, but a legal representative could negotiate with an employer's insurance provider to try to have an injured worker's case resolved in a timely manner. A lawyer could also investigate a claim denial if a worker has suffered a legitimate injury while on the job.

Source: The Virginian-Pilot, "Delays in workers' comp system hold up treatments", Philip Walzer, August 31, 2014

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