An Interview with Worker's Compensation Attorney Michele Lewane

Recently, Ben Glass interviewed Virginia Worker's Compensation Attorney Michele Lewain. In Ben's opinion, Michele, the author of a terrific consumer book on worker's compensation, is one of the top worker's compensation attorneys in Virginia. What follows is an excerpt from that interview.  For more information about Virginia Worker's Compensation, visit attorney Michele Lewain's website and make sure you order her book.

Ben:    Well – hey look, thanks for coming on the call with me today.  I know that you practice in a sort of a very specialized niche, representing injured workers in the field of workers’ compensation, so that’s what we’d like to talk about a little bit on the call today.  Could you start Michele by telling us a little bit about what this body of law is, that is who might be a part of a worker’s compensation claim?

Michele:    Okay.  I’ll start a couple hundred years ago or about a hundred years ago.  In early twentieth century, during the industrial period, injured workers were getting seriously injured and so, what would happen is they would have to find fault with their employer and so, it would take years of litigation and then maybe they would win.  So, each state started creating their own laws on workers’ comp that you give up, so the injured worker gives up those rights to get into what’s called a no-fault system which is called Workers’ Compensation, so they get a little bit of benefit supposedly right away.

Ben:    So – so what you’re saying first of all is that this set of laws applies to someone who suffers and on-the-job injury.  Is that right?

Michele:    Correct.

Ben:    And then, they don’t have to prove that their employer did anything wrong, they only have to prove that they suffered an injury while doing the job.  Right?

Michele:    Correct.

Ben:    Well let’s – so let’s talk a little bit about that because I know and you said earlier, workers give up some rights in return for having this system, which is supposed to be, I guess, smoother, quicker, less expensive.  Is it really?  Tell us a little bit about how it works in real life.

Michele:    Unfortunately now and I would have to say, especially in Virginia, Virginia is a very pro-business state, so what has happened over the years is insurance companies have gone to the legislator and lobbied for various laws and so, I have to tell people now, because you’re just saying if you get hurt on the job, you get benefits, it’s – I now have to say pretty routinely not all work injuries are covered under workers’ comp anymore.  The problem is it’s usually situations where there is no other person to get compensation from and so, a lot of people do without.  Another situation is its capped benefit is 500 weeks, and that’s nine and a half years.  There is nothing for pain or suffering and you do get medical benefits but you have to go to their doctor and the insurance companies have manipulated the situation where, you know, certain doctors are very – you know, that they have the assumption that the patient is malingering from the very first start, so they don’t – did a lot of delay and treatment either.  A client come in this afternoon and he was hurt in June and here, it is December 16th, and he – it took him until November to get the MRI and then to finally, you know, know that he has a torn ligament in his wrist, and it’s because they go, oh, it didn’t hurt you that bad.  We’ll just try this.  Try this.  Trying to get out.  Trying to go to the cheapest medical way possible instead of the best medical treatment.