Vermont Workers’ Compensation Lawyer
Helping You Get What You Need When You’ve Been Injured on the Job
Whether you’re on your own or raising a family, your ability to work is crucial. If you get hurt on the job, workers’ compensation is meant to step in, pay for your medical bills, and cover a portion of your wages while you are out of work. Sluka Law is here to make sure the system works like it is supposed to.
Sluka Law Is Here for You When Workers’ Compensation Isn’t
Your employer is required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance, and that insurance should cover any workplace injury, illness or accident, without you having to prove that you were being careful or that another party was negligent. But the cost of an employer’s workers’ compensation insurance is tied to how many claims their workers make and how much insurance carriers have to pay out. Employers and their insurers both want to keep costs low by limiting payouts. Your interests are exactly the opposite. As an injured worker, you want to make sure you get every penny you are entitled to. Sluka Law can help with that.
Justin Sluka is a Vermont workers’ compensation lawyer with nearly 20 years of experience representing employees, employers, and insurance companies. Having now represented injured workers for several years, Justin brings a well-rounded background and perspective to workers’ compensation law. Justin sees all the angles and brings a wealth of experience to the table, enabling him to litigate as needed and obtain excellent results for injured workers.
When you file a workers’ compensation claim, the insurance company claims adjusters will go to great lengths to assert that your injury is not work-related or is not as bad as you say it is. Sluka Law works to get your claim paid fully and successfully, and sooner rather than later.
Representing Workers Throughout Vermont
Sluka Law serves clients throughout the state of Vermont, from Burlington and the big cities up north down to the southern part of the state. Sluka Law’s clients come from Burlington, St. Albans, Rutland, Newport, St. Johnsbury, Barre, Windsor, Brattleboro, Bennington, and everywhere in between.
Sluka Law represents workers from a diverse set of industries and occupations, including licensed nursing assistants and resident assistants in nursing homes and other healthcare workers, highway workers, and teachers. Our firm represents agriculture and farmworkers, loggers and forestry workers, miners, and employees across the spectrum of occupations from manufacturing to retail and service industries. We understand the occupational hazards and unique needs associated with different professions, and we know the evidence needed to support a claim being submitted to an insurance company, the Labor Commissioner, or before a judge or jury in court.
Vermont Workers’ Compensation Laws
Vermont workers’ compensation laws are contained in Vermont Statutes Title 21: Labor, Chapter 9: Employer’s Liability And Workers’ Compensation. This chapter of laws contains over 100 different sections; it is lengthy, detailed and technical. All you really need to know, though, is that you have an attorney working for you who is knowledgeable about and familiar with these laws and how they apply to your case. Attorney Justin Sluka spent over 12 years defending employers and insurance companies from workers’ compensation claims before turning his attention to representing injured workers in Vermont. At Sluka Law, we know Vermont workers’ compensation law, and we are here to help when you’ve been injured on the job.
Below are some highlights of the law that probably matter most to you as an injured worker. For help with your workers’ compensation claim in Vermont, call Sluka Law for a free consultation.
Workers’ compensation applies to all employees in the state of Vermont, including independent contractors and subcontractors. Unless your employment is covered by a federal workers’ compensation system such as for longshoremen or railway workers, you are likely covered by Vermont workers’ compensation. The few exceptions from coverage include:
- Employment of a casual nature
- Amateur sports
- Agriculture or farm employment for an employer with a payroll under $10,000 a year
- Employment by a family member you live with
- Employment in a private dwelling
- Sole proprietor or partner owner of an unincorporated business
- Real estate broker or salesperson
- Excluded member of an LLC
Certain conditions must be met to exclude an employee from eligibility for workers’ comp under the above exceptions, so call our office if you are unsure whether you are covered or not.
Workers’ compensation covers accidental injuries that arise out of and in the course of employment. This definition includes occupational diseases. A death that results from an injury is also covered. An injury caused by the willful act of a third person directed against an employee because of their employment is covered as well.
Temporary Total Disability Benefits
If you are disabled from working, you can receive two-thirds of your average weekly wages while you are disabled. These benefits are subject to minimum and maximum amounts. Cost of living adjustments are applied annually in most cases.
Vermont workers’ compensation covers occupational diseases that arise out of and in the course of employment. To be compensable, the disease must result from causes and conditions that are characteristic of your occupation and peculiar to that particular occupation. The disease can’t be caused by something to which you would ordinarily be subjected or exposed to outside of or away from employment.
Choosing a Doctor
Your employer can designate a doctor for you to go to for initial treatment. However, if you are dissatisfied with that doctor after your initial visit, you can choose a doctor of your own by giving written notice of your reasons for dissatisfaction, plus the name and address of the doctor you pick.
Your workers’ compensation claim can be turned down if any of the following were the cause of the injury:
- Willful intention to injure self or another
- Failure to use a safety appliance provided for use
The burden falls on the employer to prove that one of these conditions was present and caused the injury.
Independent Medical Exams (IMEs)
Your employer can request that you be examined by a doctor picked and paid for by the employer. You have to attend such an exam when requested or risk losing your claim for benefits. The exam must be scheduled at a reasonable time and within a two-hour driving radius of your residence unless it’s necessary to travel farther to see a specialist. The exam must be performed by a duly licensed physician or surgeon. You can make a video or audio record of the exam if you wish, and you can have your own doctor present during the exam. The employer can make an audio record of the IME.
The IME doctor does not treat you or prescribe any medicine. The purpose of the IME is to give the insurance company grounds to deny your claim, terminate your benefits, or dispute the treatment your doctor recommends. Call Sluka Law before any requested IME to make sure you retain and protect your rights surrounding your workers’ compensation claim.
Uninsured Employers and Civil Lawsuits
Your employer is required by law to carry workers’ compensation insurance or otherwise be self-funded or self-insured and financially responsible to pay for your workplace injury. If you suffer a personal injury in an accident arising out of and in the course of employment with an uninsured employer, you can choose whether to file a workers’ compensation claim or bring a civil action for full damages against the employer.
In a civil lawsuit, the employer would have the burden of proving they were not negligent and not the proximate cause of your injury. They could allege as a defense the negligence of a co-worker, that you assumed the risk of injury, or that you were more than 50% responsible for the accident through your own negligence. You have three years from the date of the injury to file a lawsuit, and if successful you can get your attorney’s fees and costs paid for by the employer.
Workers’ Compensation FAQs
If you’ve been injured on the job, you likely have a lot of questions about workers’ compensation. This is not a system that you deal with every day, and the terms, process and procedure may be unfamiliar to you. Below we answer some of the questions we hear most often as we help injured workers throughout Vermont get workers’ compensation benefits after a work injury. If you have other questions or need immediate assistance with a claim denial, appeal, or other workers’ comp issue, call Sluka Law at 802-457-1000 for a free consultation.
Can I get workers’ compensation for stress?
Vermont workers’ compensation does cover mental conditions that arise from a work-related event or work-related stress. You must be able to prove the stress you experienced is extraordinary and unusual compared to the pressures and tensions experienced by the average employee. You must also be able to prove that stress is the predominant cause of your mental condition. Stress that arises from being subject to disciplinary action at work is not compensable.
What if I’m hurt at a company picnic or softball game?
Certain conditions have to be present to be covered by workers’ comp for an injury that occurred while engaged off-premises in a recreational activity that is part of your compensation package or offered as an inducement to attract employees. Such an injury is considered to have occurred in the course of employment if at least one of the following conditions apply:
- The employer derived substantial benefit from the activity beyond attracting labor or boosting employee health and morale
- The activity was reasonably part of the employee’s regular duties or undertaken to meet the expectations of the employer
- The activity was undertaken at the request of the employer
Am I covered by workers’ comp if I get attacked at work?
Even though Vermont workers’ compensation covers “accidental” injuries, the law specifically covers an injury caused by the willful act of a third person directed against an employee because of that person’s employment.
Does workers’ comp cover PTSD?
Police officers, firefighters, rescue workers and ambulance workers are eligible for benefits if diagnosed with PTSD within three years of their last active date of employment.
In general, PTSD and other psychological injuries are covered by workers’ comp for any employee who can prove a connection to their work.
Does workers’ comp cover heart disease for first responders?
Firefighters who become disabled or die from a heart injury or heart disease that becomes symptomatic within 72 hours of service are presumed to have died or become disabled in the line of duty. Law enforcement officers and emergency medical technicians who become disabled or die from a heart injury or heart disease incurred or aggravated and proximately caused by service in the line of duty and that becomes symptomatic within 72 hours from their date of last service are presumed to have died or become disabled in the line of duty. This presumption can be overcome with contrary evidence submitted by the employer or their insurance company, but they bear the burden of disproving your claim.
Is cancer considered an occupational disease for firefighters?
A firefighter who dies or incurs a disability due to certain cancers is presumed to have contracted cancer from occupational exposure. Covered cancers include leukemia, lymphoma, or multiple myeloma, and cancers originating in the bladder, brain, colon, gastrointestinal tract, kidney, liver, pancreas, skin, or testicles. The burden falls on the employer to show risk factors or exposure that were not service-connected. To be covered by the presumption, the employee must be screened for cancer before starting employment, have at least five years on the job, be under 65 years old, and not have consumed tobacco in the last ten years. Even without the presumption, you could still get workers’ compensation but would bear the burden of proving the cancer was service-connected. Workers’ comp covers a diagnosis within ten years of the last active date of employment.
How are death benefits paid after a fatal workplace accident?
Death benefits include actual burial and funeral expenses up to $10,000 plus up to $5,000 for actual expenses for out-of-state transportation of the decedent to the place of burial. In addition, the following family members receive weekly payments in the following amounts:
- If the worker left behind a spouse and no dependent children, the spouse receives two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage until the spouse reaches 62 years old or the age for Social Security benefits, or until the spouse remarries or dies.
- If the deceased left behind a spouse and one dependent child, workers’ comp pays 71 and two-thirds percent of the worker’s average weekly wage.
- If the deceased left behind a spouse and two or more dependent children, workers’ comp pays 76 and two-thirds percent of the worker’s average weekly wage.
- If there is no surviving spouse, the amount otherwise payable to the spouse is divided among the children. Children receive weekly benefits until age 18 or longer if still in school or incapable of self-support.
- If there is no surviving spouse and no surviving children, a dependent parent or grandparent can receive 30% of the deceased employee’s average weekly wage if they were wholly dependent on the deceased, or 20% if they were partially dependent, for up to 264 weeks.
- If no spouse, children, dependent parents or grandparents, a dependent grandchild or sibling can receive death benefits for up to 264 weeks in the following amounts – 15% of wages for one dependent, 20% for two, and 25% for three or more.
Call Sluka Law for a Free Consultation and Immediate Help With Your Vermont Workers’ Compensation Claim
If you’ve been injured on the job and need help getting Vermont workers’ compensation benefits, call Sluka Law for a free consultation. Videoconferences are available if you can’t come to us. In fact, we can manage your entire case through phone and video technology without you having to travel to our offices. There’s no fee unless we win, and sometimes our fees and costs can be assessed against the employer, allowing you to retain a greater share of your award. Call us today at 802-457-1000 and get started now on your road to recovery.