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What Injuries Are Covered Under the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act?

by publisher on February 11, 2015

Virginia Workers' Compensation provides benefits for: 

(1) injuries by accident arising out of and in the course of employment - Virginia Code 65.2-400

(2)  Occupational diseases - Virginia Code 65.2.400

(3) Certain ordinary diseases of life - Virginia Code 65.2-40

For this post, we will focus on injuries by accident.

Virginia Law has defined injury by accident as follows, " In order to carry his burden of proving an "injury by accident," a claimant must prove that the cause of his injury was an identifiable incident or sudden precipitating event and that it resulted in anobvious sudden mechanical or structural change in the body."  Morris v. Morris, 238 VA 578 (1989).

What does this mean in reality?  It means that a workplace accident in Virginia is only covered by workers' compensation when the injured worker can specify the time when the injury occurred.  In order to be covered by workers' compensation insurance, the injury can not arise from strain or impact after a period of work.

To make this more clear, lets review the facts of the workers' compensation claims that the Virginia Supreme Court denied in Morris v. Morris. One of the workers felt dizzy and nauseaous after loading 96 50 pound cartons of fiberglass into a truck.  The second worker spent 1.5 hours unloading seven steel doors with a fellow employee and felt low back soreness afterwards.  The third worker spent 2.5 hours instsalling 30 pound ceiling panels above his head before suffering a heart attack during a break.

Each of these claims was denied because the injured worker could not identify the specific time when he was injured while working.  An injury sustained over a period of time without a specific, identifiable moment in time when the injury occured, is not a compensable injury under the Virginia Workers' Compensation Act.