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Good documentation and timely claim important for workers' comp

Beckley residents likely already know that West Virginia's workers' compensation system has become much more difficult in recent years. The system was privatized in 2005 and is run by Brickstreet Insurance. This sometimes means an injured worker's every move is scrutinized by an insurance company.

Recently, West Virginia's Supreme Court of Appeals ruled against a worker at the famed four-star Greenbrier Hotel who said she suffered on-the-job injuries when she hurt her shoulder in 2008. The next year, an administrator denied her claim. The Workers' Compensation Office of Judges upheld that denial in 2010.

The worker appealed to the state's Supreme Court. At issue was whether the main cause of her injury was an on-the-job accident or a fall she had a couple of months later at her family farm during a day off. The Supreme Court upheld the Office of Judges' decision, saying that denying the benefits was correct because of some discrepancies in the worker's injury reports.

Although the woman claimed her work injury occurred in November 2008, her claim was not filed until February 2009. In the meantime, she sought treatment for the separate incident on her family's farm, which led to a dispute regarding the cause.

Workers' compensation is a system under which employees who are injured or disabled on the job must receive money for medical expenses, lost wages and other costs that resulted from the injury. Under workers' compensation, employees generally cannot sue their employers for these injuries. The workers' compensation system is supposed to provide everything the injured worker needs. Sometimes, however, the decision can turn on medical records, which is why it is always advisable to seek treatment for an injury, ensure it is fully documented and to file a timely claim.

Whether at a fancy resort like the Greenbrier or a major construction site, workers can be injured on the job every day. It is important that injured workers understand their rights and get all the help they can in navigating West Virginia's workers' compensation system.

Source: The West Virginia Record, "W. Va. SC rules against Greenbrier employee over workers' comp claim," Jessica M. Karmasek, Sept. 21, 2012

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