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Workers’ Comp Presumptions for Virginia Public Safety Employees

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Workers’ Comp Presumptions for Virginia Public Safety Employees

Workers’ Comp Presumptions for Virginia Public Safety Employees

By Jan Hoen

As a police officer, firefighter, or other public safety worker, you are treated somewhat differently than other employees under Virginia’s workers’ compensation laws. The logic behind the system is sound: You are dedicated to protecting the public, often putting your own life and interests at stake to provide for your community. You should have certain advantages if you suffer from a work-related injury or ailment.

One of the key factors for public safety employees in workers’ comp claims is that they enjoy certain legal presumptions when it comes to job-related occupational diseases. As a result, the regulations are more complicated than the workers’ compensation laws that apply to workers in the private sector. Your Virginia workers’ compensation attorney can address the challenges, while a general explanation of the presumption for public safety workers may be helpful.  

 How Presumptions Work for Workers’ Comp Claims

In the practice of law, a presumption means that a fact is assumed to be true without additional evidence by the party that asserts it. For workers’ comp claims by public safety employees, Virginia law provides a presumption that certain medical conditions are the result of work-related tasks. You could benefit from this presumption, which means you’re more likely to get workers’ comp benefits, if: 

  • You are a firefighter or hazardous materials officer who developed a respiratory disease;
  • You contracted hypertension or heart disease through your work in law enforcement, firefighting, conservation, or other occupations described in the statute; or,
  • You have been diagnosed with certain types of cancer in connection with your work as a designated public safety employee.

As a result of applying the public safety worker presumption, you do not have the burden of proof to show that your medical condition is a direct result of your job. Instead, the presumption is effectively your proof. It can only be overcome by a rebuttal from your employer’s workers’ comp insurer.

Grounds for the Insurance Company’s Rebuttal

Every case is different, but some common arguments the insurer may present are:

  • Last Injurious Exposure: The insurer will only pay benefits through the employer you worked for at the time that you were last exposed to the hazard that led to your occupational disease. If you could have contacted a medical condition from more recent employment, your claim may be denied.
  • Statute of Limitations: You must file your claim for workers’ comp within two years after you contracted the occupational illness or when you discovered it through a doctor’s diagnosis.
  • Condition Not Related to Employment: If there are other factors that could have contributed to your occupational disease, an insurance company will raise this in rebuttal. Examples include smoking, drinking alcohol, or genetic history that predisposes you to a medical condition.

Contact a Virginia Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Regarding Your Rights

If you developed an occupational disease and believe your medical condition is associated with your work as a public safety employee, it is important to consult with experienced legal counsel right away. Though you enjoy a presumption, you can expect a rebuttal from your employer’s workers’ comp insurance company, which puts your benefits at risk. For more information, please call Hampton Injury Law PLC to schedule a no-cost case evaluation with a Virginia workers’ compensation attorney today.

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