Workers’ Compensation FAQ Series: What if my work injury prevents me from ever returning to work?

If you suffer a work-related injury that prevents you from returning to any type of employment, your disability benefits are normally limited to 500 weeks. However, there are a few exceptions to this 500-week cap, which can be found in section 65.2-503 of the Code of Virginia.

You may qualify for permanent and total disability benefits (lifetime disability benefits) in the following circumstances:

  • Loss of both hands, both arms, both feet, both legs, both eyes, or any two thereof in the same accident
  • Injury that for all practical purposes has resulted in total paralysis
  • Injury to the brain so severe, that it renders the injured worker permanently unemployable in gainful employment

A man welding with sparks flying

Proving permanent and total disability benefits is typically difficult. You, as the injured worker, will bear the burden of proof. The first thing to determine is whether you automatically qualify for lifetime benefits. An example of an injury that normally qualifies is a spinal cord injury that results in paralysis to the legs or arms. Another injury that may automatically qualify is an amputation. However, to automatically qualify, amputation to two body parts is required.

Serious brain injuries may also automatically qualify. The brain injury must be so severe as to render the employee unemployable in any type of gainful employment. The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission will generally look to the medical evidence to determine if your brain injury is severe enough to qualify you for permanent disability benefits.

If you do not automatically qualify, your injury may still entitle you for more than 500 weeks of benefits. For example, if you suffer a back injury that impacts the use of your legs, you may qualify. You will have to produce medical evidence that you’ve suffered a permanent loss of use of your legs, such that you cannot use your legs in gainful employment. Again, the burden of proof lies with the injured worker.

Navigating the workers’ compensation system can be overwhelming and difficult. If you or a loved one has been hurt on the job, contact the experienced attorneys at Allen and Allen. We are here to make sure that you receive all the benefits to which you are entitled.