Changes in Virginia Workers’ Compensation Law

Written by Andrew Willis, Esq.

Edited by Rachel Riordan, Esq.

The General Assembly convened earlier this year and enacted a number of changes to Virginia’s workers’ compensation laws. However, a number of proposals that would have resulted in even bigger changes failed. Below is a summary of what did and did not become law in 2018:

Legislation Passed by the General Assembly

  • The Hon. Ferrell Newman, already a Workers’ Compensation Commissioner, was appointed Chairman of the Workers’ Compensation Commission effective July 1, 2018. He takes over as Chairman from Commissioner Wesley Marshall for a 3 year term.
  • HB 82 held the tax rate paid by insurance carriers and self-insured employers to fund the Uninsured Employer’s Fund steady at .005 %.
  • HB 558 added clarity to the term “medical community” for employers obligated to pay for out-of-state medical treatment.
  • HB 117 provided that specially-appointed Deputy Commissioners or retired Commissioners can be counted in determining whether there is a quorum of the full Commission.

Legislation Not Passed by the General Assembly

  • HB 1543 would have expanded the time period for many claimants to file new claims for benefits. Specifically, the bill provided for the tolling of the two-year limitations period for filing a new claim during the time when the employer was paying either medical or wage loss benefits. This is not allowed under current law.
  • HB 969 would have drastically reduced the ability of claimants to seek compensation from a “statutory employer” in cases where their own employers did not have workers’ compensation insurance.
  • HB 460 would have made it easier for a claimant to bring a civil suit for retaliatory discharge by an employer. Under current law, a claimant can only bring such a suit when the filing of a workers’ compensation claim, or the intent to file one, was the only reason for the claimant’s discharge. Under the proposed change, the claimant could have filed a suit if the termination was motivated to any extent by the knowledge or belief that the claimant had or intended to claim certain remedies under the Workers’ Compensation Act.
  • HB 462 would have expanded the ability of claimants to bring claims for injuries occurring outside of Virginia. The bill would have eliminated the requirement that, in order for Virginia to have jurisdiction over a claim, the injured workers’ “contract of hire” was created in Virginia.
  • HB 461 would have required employers to notify claimants who had filed claims whether they intended to reject or deny the claims. This proposal is similar to the Commission’s current practice of requiring employers to respond to 20-Day Orders stating whether agreement forms have been mailed to a claimant.

The General Assembly convenes once a year, with special sessions and reconvened sessions sometimes occurring more frequently. Even though many significant changes were defeated this year, other big changes may be enacted in the near future. The attorneys at KPM are happy to discuss what any of the new legislation means for your claiims and to answer any of your workers’ compensation-related questions.

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