Virginia Workers’ Comp settlements are completed by the entry of a settlement Order signed by a Deputy Commissioner, or Judge, and there is an automatic right to appeal within 30 days. The Order is enforceable on day 31, but a penalty of 20% applies on day 45. This is why Herndon workers comp lawyer Doug Landau tells clients and their spouses to “save the envelope!”
The settlement check does not come immediately and because the insurance companies make a lot of money by holding on to these big checks for as long as they can, they sometimes make a mistake and send them too late. “That means an additional 20% for my clients, tax free and with no attorney fee,” notes Landau. If an $82,000 settlement check is late, and the US Postal Service mark shows that it was sent late, that could mean an additional $16,400 for the client.
Attorney Landau cautions clients that the date on the check is not the important piece of evidence. Large companies can post-date and pre-date insurance settlement checks with a few key strokes. Likewise, the date on the postage meter is usually not sufficient evidence to show that an insurance company sent a settlement check late. “It is the US Postal Service mark that counts. The insurance companies cannot counterfeit that, and with the envelope, we have been able to prove to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission that the money was not sent on time. As the weekly or bi-weekly wage loss checks are often sent from a local office computer, they are usually on time. But when the bigger settlement checks are sent from a regional office of the home office of a national insurance company, they have to be specially keyed in, and that can cause them to not go out in a timely fashion. When that happens, it may be a time for penalties and interest.
In a case Landau recently won at the Hearing level for a truck driver who was struck from behind and disabled from all work for the last several years, the insurance company sent Landau’s client the judgment money, after they lost again on appeal, late.The Court’s Order required payment AND interest at the 6% judgment rate, which is much better than any current bank interest rate. Furthermore, when it became apparent that the insurance company, had sent the check for over $52,000 late, the judge ordered the payment of the automatic 20% penalty, as set for under Virginia law.
If you or someone you know is not receiving Virginia Workers’ Compensation benefits in a timely manner under an Award, and there are question, please give us a call at (703-796-9555) or email us at Abrams Landau, Ltd. And if you were injured due to no fault of your own, whether at work or not, please reach out to us and we will try our best to guide you in the right direction.