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Public Safety Employees Under Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation System

Public safety workers such as police officers, firefighters, and other first responders are subject to slightly different rules than other employees under Virginia’s Workers’ Compensation (VWC) system. For good reason, public employees who dedicate their lives to maintaining order and keeping others safe should enjoy certain protections if they are injured in the workplace. One important feature that workers’ comp laws offer to these workers is that they are granted presumptions regarding occupational diseases that are common in their area of work. Though there are advantages to gaining a legal presumption, the VWC regulations do not provide a guarantee that public workers qualify for benefits. By working with a Hampton workers’ compensation lawyer, you can eliminate the hassles and potential denials.

Presumptions for Designated Diseases

In legal terms, a presumption is a fact that is assumed to be valid without actual proof of its validity. In the workers’ compensation statute, there is a presumption that certain types of employees do not need to offer additional proof of designated work-related medical conditions. Some occupational illnesses tend to accompany the difficult job of the police, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians (EMTs), so they get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to:

  • Certain types of cancer;
  • Heart attacks, hypertension, and heart disease;
  • Stroke;
  • Lung disease and respiratory disorders; and,
  • Other medical conditions designated by Virginia’s workers’ compensation laws.

Presumptions and Rebuttals

The result of using a legal presumption for public employees is that the burden of proof moves to the employer and/or workers’ compensation insurance company to show why the worker would not qualify for benefits. These entities could establish this level of proof through a rebuttal, such as by presenting evidence that:

  • Your claim falls outside the last injurious exposure in employment, which is a type of statute of limitations. This factor is related to the most recent time that you were subjected to dangers associated with an occupational disease. The statute refers to different time periods, from two or three, and up to seven years from the last time you were exposed;
  • You did not submit your claim within two years of when a diagnosis was provided to you, with respect to certain occupational diseases; or,
  • Your occupational condition is unrelated to your position as a public service employee and was actually caused by other factors, such as smoking, excessive drinking, obesity, diet, or a pre-existing condition.

Generally, legal presumptions can act in your favor, but it is especially difficult to overcome those related to the last injurious exposure. These time periods are less subjective, so it is important to take action right away when you become aware of an occupational condition.

A Hampton Workers’ Compensation Attorney can Help with Your Claim

If you developed a medical condition and believe that it is related to your employment as a police officer, firefighter, or first responder, you may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. Because opposing parties will try to protect their own interests in arguing against the legal presumptions, you need a knowledgeable advocate on your side. Please call Hampton Workers’ Compensation Law at 757.838.1136 to set up a free evaluation of your case. You can also reach Mr. Hoen for more information about your claim.

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