A Timely Appeal of a Virginia Workers’ Compensation Is Necessary

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In a recent case, the Virginia Workers’ Compensation had to deal with an appeal by a claimant of an unsuccessful claim. In a very close case, the Deputy Commissioner had denied the claimant’s claim on August 1, 2011. The claimant had 30 days to appeal pursuant to the Rules of the Commission and state law. The claimant mailed an appeal to the Commission on August 29, 2011. Three Commissioners who handle appeals ruled this insufficient since it did not reach the Commission until September 1, 2011 which was 31 days after the date of the decision.

The Three Commissioners ruled the appeal would have been timely if it had been filed by certified mail on August 29, 2011 or if had been filed electronically by Webfile on August 29, 2011. However, mailing by regular mail on August 29, 2011 meant it was not “filed” until September 1, 2011 which was one (1)day too late.

In Virginia workers’ compensation hearings are conducted by Deputy Commissioners. If there is a disagreement with the decision of the Deputy Commissioner then either party can appeal further for a ruling by the Three Commissioners who are appointed by the Governor.

This meant the appeal was denied. In this case the claimant tried to follow the Rules of the Virginia Workers’ Compensation Commission. The claimant understood the Rule to mean an appeal had to be filed in 30 days of the denial of the claim. In fact, the claimant thought he had complied with the Rule by mailing an appeal to the Commission on August 29, 2011 which was prior to the expiration of the 30 day deadline. But the claimant made a fatal error. He thought the act of “mailing” an appeal was the same as “filing” an appeal.

Unfortunately, this a case where ignorance of the law does not excuse the mistake. It would have been relatively simple for the claimant to contact the Commission to make sure the appeal was filed correctly. Alternatively, the claimant could have retained a lawyer or contacted one for assistance. This situation illustrates the maxim recited often by Abraham Lincoln who said, “He who represents himself has a fool for an attorney.”

Some might argue since the claimant was only one day late on his appeal so the Three Commissioners should have considered the appeal anyway. This sounds like a valid approach. After all, the Supreme Court of Virginia has ruled the Rules should be interpreted to favor claims. But, the law does need deadlines or else justice could not be administered and thus extending the deadline would just not work.

Source by Jerry Lutkenhaus

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