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In 2021, 48,201 major workplace injuries were reported to the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, and these included various types of foot injuries. A foot injury received while at work can severely impact your quality of life and your ability to perform well at your job. If this happens to you, Pathfinder Injury Law is here to help guide you through the confusing process of workers’ compensation in Virginia and seek the results you need.
Eligibility requirements to receive workers’ comp for a foot injury can quickly become complicated. While this guide is meant to be helpful, it should not be taken as legal advice, and we recommend you seek the assistance of an experienced workers’ compensation lawyer to help with your claim.
To get started, consider how you will answer the following. Keep in mind, though, that even if you can answer these questions, it does not mean you automatically qualify for a workers’ compensation settlement to pay all your medical bills and more. You often still must go through the entire process before any offer for a payout occurs.
To be eligible for benefits under workers’ comp, you must have sustained your injuries “arising out of and during the course of your employment.” This requirement is a specific legal term that means there must have been an “actual risk” of the employment that led to the accident. It cannot be a risk common to the community that any person could have suffered anywhere, even independent from employment.
The injury had to have occurred at work or during some work-related function. If it occurred outside the course and scope of your employment, due to horseplay in the workplace, or as the result of a willful violation of a known safety rule, the personal injury will likely not be eligible for workers’ comp.
The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, in its information for employees, states that in order for an accident to be covered, it must be the result of a specific work activity. You will need to define exactly what you were doing at the time of the injury-causing accident to answer this question and how it relates to your work.
Determine the exact occurrence and timing of the injury. It is important to note that only sudden mechanical changes are compensable in Virginia. Workers’ compensation insurance will not cover injuries that occur gradually or may be attributable to repetitive trauma.
Once you severely injure your foot in the workplace, you need to begin collecting evidence. The burden of proof for your workers’ compensation claim lies with you, and the sooner you start preparing, the better.
Make sure you report your accident in writing to your employer within 30 days of its occurrence. Be specific and state how it happened and what injuries you developed as a result. You will need to show proof of that reporting and that it occurred in a timely manner.
Your report is also good to have on hand when you file a claim for workers’ compensation or temporary disability benefits because it can be used as evidence.
Compile documentation showing your wages prior to the injury-causing accident. One way to show this is by compiling pay stubs for the past six months.
Gather all medical care records relating to your foot injury, including any x-rays or other diagnostics. Also include any prescriptions, as well as any future medical treatment required, such as physical therapy sessions or surgery. If you need surgery, be sure to request documentation from your doctor showing why the surgery is necessary and how it links to the workplace injury. The insurance carrier will also be looking for any pre-existing conditions you may have. This can impact your claim, so be sure to review these with your attorney.
Determine if cameras were located in the areas of the accident that can show how the injury occurred. Obtain footage to add to your workers’ comp case. Ask the custodian of the photos or videos to preserve them unaltered. Take photos of the location, your injury, and any equipment or dangerous conditions.
Were there any nearby witnesses to the injury? Where were your co-workers at the time it occurred? You will need witness statements and also the contact information for these people. If you need help obtaining these, our workers’ comp attorney may be able to assist you.
If the injury is due to “everyday pressure,” it will not be covered by workers’ compensation. However, there are several common foot injuries that a worker might sustain in the workplace that can be eligible. These include the following.
Achilles tendon injuries occur when the fibrous tissue band linking the muscles in the calf to the heel either tears or ruptures. You may feel or hear a sudden pop from this area of the foot. Symptoms include stiffness, swelling, and pain.
Bones in the feet can fracture or become dislocated. Particular injuries include a Lisfranc fracture in the midfoot, a stress fracture resulting in tiny cracks in the bones, and metatarsal fractures occurring in the weight-bearing bones between the toes and ankle. Symptoms often include bruising, swelling, pain, deformity, and weight-bearing difficulties.
Dislocated foot injuries occur when the bones within a joint separate as a result of some trauma. With this, you can experience the same or similar symptoms of a fractured injury.
The foot is mechanical in nature and includes 26 different bones. Any of these bones can break and cause difficulty standing and walking. With a broken foot, you may experience an intense throbbing or pain, swelling, tenderness, and bruising.
A foot sprain involves a stretching or tearing of the ligaments, tough fibrous tissue bands that attach bones to each other. These sprains occur mainly in the ankle and midfoot regions and can cause instability, muscle spasms, swelling, bruising, and pain with movement, making them more than just minor injuries.
The tarsal tunnel of the foot is a narrow space situated inside the ankle and covered by a ligament to protect its contents (nerves, tendons, arteries, and veins). Tarsal Tunnel Syndrome involves a squeezing or compression of one of those nerves, the posterior tibial nerve, that resides in the tunnel. Symptoms pointing to this condition include a burning or tingling sensation in the heel, numbness, and pain.
Foot drop refers to difficulty lifting the front part of the foot and can be a sign of some muscular or neurological issue. Due to this, your foot may drag as you walk. If caused by a nerve injury, you may encounter high medical costs.
Foot amputations are less common than the others but can occur, such as in a car accident, a crushing incident, or another industrial accident.
Any of these foot injuries and resulting impairment can limit your abilities and may even require you to enter sedentary work going forward. Permanent disability can occur, and if so, you might need to re-evaluate your career altogether.
Workplace injuries can affect any part of the body, but certain areas are more common than others, and that includes the feet. According to a 2021 annual report of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission, 21% of reports involve some part of the injured workers lower extremities, which include a hip, foot, or knee injury.
The specific anatomy of the foot makes it highly susceptible to injury in a variety of circumstances. Along with its 26 bones, each foot contains 33 joints and over 100 different muscles, tendons, and ligaments. Nerves also run through the feet, as well as arteries and veins.
Sometimes, a foot injury cannot be healed through medicine, injections, or physical therapy and needs surgery by an orthopedic specialist or foot and ankle injury doctor. This surgery should be considered part of your medical benefits if your injury case is covered under workers’ compensation. However, if there is a denial of treatment, you may need to contact an experienced attorney who can help work to overturn this denial and potentially obtain the workers’ compensation benefits you need.
Determining how much a workers’ comp foot injury will be worth in Virginia requires looking at several different factors. The answer will depend on the type of injury, the manner in which you sustained it, future medical needs, future lost wages, permanent damage, and other factors.
Since cases are rarely the same, a dollar value cannot be put on a workers’ compensation case before evaluating medical records and all the facts surrounding the claim itself. You will need to prove the causal relationship between the foot injury and your employment, identify complications, symptoms, and future medical expenses, and identify whether permanent disability is a possibility.
So, to sum it up, there is no average workers’ settlement amount when it comes to workers’ compensation. Foot injury settlements are voluntary agreements between the claimant and your employer’s insurance company. No one can force anyone to accept or pay a settlement. For these reasons, working with an attorney experienced in workers’ compensation law can help you achieve results and reach an agreement for a fair settlement on your behalf.
In addition, there are different types of workers’ comp settlements to seek in different circumstances. These include:
It is important to note that foot injuries have the potential to cause you to miss work, develop a disability, or even need to switch occupations. Taking all this into account, your settlement needs to fit your circumstances so you can maintain a good quality of life and be productive.
For workplace injuries, vocational rehabilitation is often a part of the process. This type of rehab has two goals — to return the employee to the workforce and to relieve the employer from the burden of paying future compensation. Providers of these rehab services are tasked with attempting to find alternative employment opportunities within the worker’s pre-injury position and achieved salary level.
Particular services that fall under vocational rehab include:
Keep in mind, however, that vocational rehab is not something you want to end up in because, nine out of 10 times, it will end in favor of the insurance company. When this happens, they will find a way to cut off your wage loss checks. If you refuse or somehow fail to comply with vocational rehab requirements, you run the risk of losing entitlement to all workers’ comp benefits.
The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission set up guidelines for vocational rehabilitation with the hopes of creating less conflict. Yet, vocational rehab is still a fraught endeavor. Once you end up here, we advise you to talk to a workers’ comp lawyer because you are going to need help tiptoeing through this minefield.
As a claimant, you probably have a greater potential for increasing your final outcome under the guidance of a workers’ comp lawyer. Insurance companies tend to take advantage of a claimant’s lack of knowledge and will use this for lower settlement offers and to pay less than they should for cases. With legal representation, your injury lawyer can go toe to toe with them and not walk away until you receive a fair settlement.
A workers’ comp attorney may be able to assist you in collecting evidence and talking with both the insurance company and the Commission on your behalf. They can even take your workers’ compensation case to litigation if need be.
Sustaining a foot injury at work can lead to long healing periods and challenging paperwork to fill out for workers’ compensation benefits. It can quickly become overwhelming, and you may or may not receive the help you need. Pathfinder Injury Law understands how workers’ compensation law works in Virginia and is here to help you find a potential solution. We value the attorney-client relationship and will walk this path with you. Give our law firm a call today at 804-505-0633 or fill out our online contact form at our website and schedule your free consultation.
Bryn Swartz is passionate about helping others navigate work-related injuries. Read more from the founder of Pathfinder Injury Law in VA.