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Sluka Law PLC.
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Vermont Workers’ Compensation Attorney

All employers in Vermont are required to carry workers’ compensation insurance, with the goal of providing immediate help for workers injured on the job. Workers don’t have to prove negligence or that the accident was someone else’s fault in order to receive benefits. In exchange for quick and certain access to benefits, workers are prohibited from suing their employers, even for negligence, and the amount of the employer’s liability is relatively defined and limited.

When workers’ compensation works as it should, injured workers get the medical care they need, and the costs of treatment are paid by workers’ compensation directly to the healthcare providers, so workers aren’t out of pocket for any expenses. Workers can also receive wage replacement if their injury takes them off the job or out of the workforce temporarily, partially, permanently or totally.

When workers’ compensation doesn’t operate as it should, though, injured workers find themselves fighting to get the coverage they need and are entitled to. Employers and their workers’ comp insurance carriers drag out the process to pay claims, requesting the same documentation over and over and sending the employee for medical exams that conclude the injury isn’t work-related or serious. The insurance companies might turn down claims for reasons that don’t hold up under scrutiny, or they might underpay benefits or terminate benefits before employees are ready to return to work or while they are still receiving medical care. When disfunction like this occurs in the workers’ compensation system, injured employees need the help of an experienced Vermont workers’ compensation attorney to negotiate for them, advocate for them, and fight for them to see their valid claims are covered.

Sluka Law is a Vermont workers’ compensation law firm dedicated to serving injured employees in Vermont nursing homes, schools, and all industries and occupations. Justin Sluka spent nearly 20 years as a workers’ compensation defense lawyer, where he learned all the reasons insurance companies have for rejecting claims and how they deal with denials and appeals. We use this knowledge and experience on your behalf to help you get your claim covered and fully paid. Call Sluka Law for a free consultation if you’ve been injured on the job in Vermont, and find out how we can help you.

Workers’ Compensation Benefits

By law, employees in Vermont may be eligible for a number of different benefits after an on-the-job injury. Vermont workers’ compensation benefits include:

  • Medical benefits: All medical care and treatment that are reasonable and necessary to treat a work injury
  • Wages: Pay for lost time while an injured employee is disabled from working, equal to about two-thirds of the employee’s regular wages
  • Permanent injury benefits: Monetary payment for total disability or a permanent impairment as defined in the AMA Guides
  • Retraining: Vocational rehabilitation services, including retraining and job placement, for employees unable to return to their previous employment after an injury
  • Fatality benefits: Death benefits to family members of workers killed on the job or whose death resulted from a work injury

Your Rights as an Injured Worker

If you get hurt on the job, you might worry that filing a workers’ compensation claim would put you in an adversarial relationship with your boss. That is true to the extent that your employer and their workers’ compensation insurance carrier want to pay as little as possible on your claim, while you want to get the maximum amount of benefits available. But remember that your employer has workers’ compensation insurance to cover your costs, and you are entitled to it by law. You have rights as an injured worker in Vermont, and an experienced Vermont workers’ compensation lawyer at Sluka Law can protect those rights and help you exercise them.

Below are some of the rights you have as an injured worker under Vermont workers’ compensation law. If you’ve been hurt on the job in Vermont, call Sluka Law for help getting the maximum workers’ comp benefits that are due to you.

You have a right to medical benefits and lost time pay.

Workers’ compensation benefits include having all of your reasonable and necessary medical services and supplies related to the injury paid for by your employer’s workers’ comp insurance. Medical benefits include doctor visits, hospital treatment, and other care you may need, such as physical therapy, medication, chiropractic treatment, or counseling.

Your benefits also include wage replacement for a temporary disability or permanent benefits for a permanent disability. Temporary disability benefits equal two-thirds of your regular wages. Permanent benefits depend on the severity of the injury and its impact on your ability to work.

You might also be entitled to vocational rehabilitation benefits if you need retraining and job placement to get back into the workforce after an injury.

You have a right to choose your doctor.

Your employer has the right to designate a doctor for initial treatment. However, after your initial visit, you have the right to select a doctor of your choosing by giving written notice of your reasons for dissatisfaction with the first doctor, plus the name and address of the doctor you pick.

You have the right to leave work for a medical appointment.

If you are working part-time, you should schedule your doctor’s visit outside of working hours. If you are full-time, however, you can go to the doctor during work hours, and your employer can’t withhold your wages.

You have a right to workers’ compensation and a third-party liability claim.

If your injury occurred at work but was caused by some third party, you might have a negligence claim against that third party. Examples include getting hit by a negligent driver while working, a slip and fall while working where the property owner did not maintain safe premises; or an injury caused by a product that was defectively designed or manufactured. You can file a claim for workers’ comp benefits and also file a tort claim for damages against the third party. If you are successful in your tort claim, workers’ compensation might be entitled to some reimbursement.

You have a right to choose how you get paid.

If you are receiving workers’ comp benefits like wage replacement for temporary disability, you can get these benefits through direct deposit to your bank account without having to wait for weekly checks. You can request your permanent impairment benefits in a lump sum. You can even negotiate a cash settlement of your entire claim.

You have the right to seek workers’ compensation.

You can’t be disciplined, fired, discriminated against or retaliated against for exercising your right to workers’ comp.

You have the right to an attorney.

Workers’ compensation claims can be difficult to manage, especially while you are in pain and knocked out of commission dealing with a work injury. This might be your first work injury, but your employer has likely dealt with workers’ comp claims before, and their insurance company claims adjuster handles them every single day. You have the right to advice and representation from a skilled and experienced workers’ compensation attorney who is knowledgeable about the law and can level the playing field between you and your employer and their insurance carrier.

Broad Definition of Work Injury

A work injury is broadly defined in Vermont workers’ compensation law. It is defined as an injury that arises out of and in the course of employment. A work injury can include an occupational disease or a mental condition from a work-related event or work-related stress. An injury can arise from a single traumatic event or due to repetitive motions over years.

The Burden Is on the Employee to Prove The Claim

Filing a claim for workers’ compensation is more than filling out a form and saying you got hurt. You must submit medical documentation and other evidence that supports your claim. The burden is on you to prove you suffered an injury and that it is work-related. If the employer puts up evidence contradicting your claim, your evidence must be stronger than theirs. An experienced workers’ compensation attorney can help you prepare and present the strongest case in your favor.

Pre-Existing Injuries Can Be Compensable

A favorite excuse of the insurance companies is that the claimed injury was pre-existing or happened outside of work. While this fact can result in denial of a claim, it’s important to know that any aggravation or worsening of a pre-existing injury is compensable if it occurs because of work. When a pre-existing injury happened at a previous job and gets accelerated or exacerbated at the current job, it can become a complicated matter to sort out which employer is responsible for paying workers’ comp.

Insurance Companies Fight Over Treatment

Even if your claim is deemed compensable, the insurance company might still argue with you over what type of treatment you should receive. They might have their bottom line in mind, but you should have your health in mind, as we do. You are entitled to care that is reasonable and necessary to treat your injury. When the insurer pushes back on a recommended surgery or other proposed treatment, we’ll work to put together the medical evidence in a compelling and persuasive way that proves your case and your doctor’s recommendation.

Insurance Companies Stop Payments Too Early

Once benefits are being paid, the insurance company wants to stop paying as soon as they can. They’ll send you to a doctor they pick and pay for to examine you and say your recovery has plateaued and will not improve further, which is known in Vermont workers’ compensation law as “medical end result,” or “maximum medical improvement.” If you fail to show up for an independent medical exam, fail to provide medical authorization, fail to return to work after you’ve been released by your doctor, or the carrier proves you have reached medical end result, they can stop paying benefits. If the insurer made a mistake and you should still be getting benefits, we know the process and procedure to help you keep your benefits while you are still entitled to them.

Need Help With Your Vermont Workers’ Compensation Claim? Call Sluka Law.

Sluka Law is here for you when you are having trouble getting the benefits you need and deserve under Vermont workers’ compensation law. Call our office for a free consultation. We can work with you entirely over the phone and via videoconferences, and we only charge a fee after we have resolved the case in your favor. Call 802-457-1000, and get help today.

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