Injured at Work in Vermont or New Hampshire? Sabbeth Law Can Help.
Sabbeth Law’s commitment is to secure full and fair compensation for our clients. To do that, our work has to be more than just a job.
Sabbeth Law represents injured workers before the Vermont Department of Labor and the New Hampshire Department of Labor.
Workers’ Compensation is an insurance or risk-based system designed to protect employees who are injured while working. The legal test as to whether an injury should be covered by workers’ compensation is if the injury arose out of and in the course of employment.
There is a lot to know about workers’ compensation. Often, the rules are exceedingly confusing, and the insurance companies that are well-versed in workers’ compensation law will use their knowledge against the injured worker (who is already stressed by the injury or not being able to work) to take advantage of the injured worker and not offer the benefits due.
To try and make some sense of this all, let’s start by covering some tips that apply equally to Vermont and New Hampshire Workers’ Compensation cases.
If you’ve been injured on the job in Vermont or New Hampshire, regardless of fault, you’re entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
We discuss the benefits you’re entitled to below, followed by the many reasons your claim might be denied, and how workers’ compensation lawyers at Sabbeth Law fight bogus denials.
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BENEFITS DUE UNDER THE VERMONT AND NEW HAMPSHIRE WORKERS’ COMPENSATION ACTS
If you have a workers’ compensation claim, you are entitled to the following benefits, whether in Vermont or New Hampshire:
COMMON BOGUS DENIALS OF WORKERS’ COMPENSATION CLAIMS
Again, workers’ compensation in Vermont and New Hampshire could not be a more simple: if your injury arises out of and in the course of your employment, you’re covered. However, I cannot begin to count the amount of times I’ve had injured Vermont and New Hampshire workers come to me with patently absurd and insulting denials of their work comp claims. Sure, there are some claims that are legally and factually more complex than others — we litigate those claims on a daily basis. But it’s what I refer to as “bogus denials” that I see most often and find most infuriating. And it almost always starts at the very beginning.
1) “You didn’t report it right away, so it didn’t happen.”
It’s easiest to illustrate this denial by example:
It’s Monday, July 1st and you report to your work. After you’ve arrived at the office or the worksite, you’re moving an item and lose your balance. You begin to fall, but catch the item you’re moving. In fact, you don’t even fall, but you twist yourself. Before you know it, you feel a painful sensation radiating from your neck down your shoulder and into your arm. Because, like most of us, you just want to get on with it, you don’t say anything to any of your coworkers, but simply finish out the work day and head home. Maybe you take an Advil to get you to the finish line.
Throughout the evening and into the following day, you notice this pain begins to worsen. The next day you report to work and you’re sore. You realize that your injury is getting worse; but, again, you want to get on with it, finish your shift and get home. And so you do. We’ve all been sore before. You figure you’ll be fine the next day.
When you awake the next day the pain is still there, and finally it dawns on you: You better get to the doctor to get checked out.
Bad news: Your doctor breaks it to you that you’re out of work and require additional medical treatment.
You call work, tell them what happened, and they pass the info along to their workers’ compensation insurance company. The conversation turns from here:
Insurance company: “When was the injury reported?”
Your employer: “Today.”
Insurance company: “But your employee claims it happened two days ago?”
Your employer: “Yep.”
Insurance Company: “But, to be clear, your employee is reporting it for the first time today?”
Your employer: “Yep.”
Insurance Company: “Did anyone see him get injured?”
Your employer: “Nope.”
Insurance Company: (without further inquiry) “Thank you, we will be denying the claim.”
Your Employer: “Okay.”
Now you have no income. You have no access to medical care outside your personal health plan (if you have one) and the deductibles and copays that accompany it. You have no job security. The system you’ve supported as an employee since you began working has tossed you by the wayside.
2) “Preexisting condition. We’re not responsible.”
You’ve been working for years. Like most people over the age of 30, you have some degeneration/arthritis in your joints. For this example, let’s say specifically in your shoulder.
You’re lifting boxes for work, and you’re suddenly struck with a sharp, biting pain in your shoulder. It’s severe, and you know you didn’t just pull something — you know you’re injured.
You do all the right things: you immediately report the injury to your supervisor or coworker, explain how it happened, and go to the emergency room. The hospital performs an MRI which shows multiple rotator cuff tears, which clearly started before your work injury. However, you never had symptoms remotely close to what you are now experiencing since your workplace injury. That last box you moved was the proverbial “straw that broke the camel’s back.”
The insurance company receives your medical records showing that there was some preexisting tearing. Bang! Claim denied.
Again, the law of Vermont and New Hampshire workers’ compensation is clear: Even when there is some underlying or pre-existing degeneration, if you sustain an injury at work that “breaks the camel’s back” and causes symptoms requiring treatment, it is covered. There’s very clear logic behind this law. Again, anyone over 30 years old almost definitely has some degenerative conditions. But it doesn’t mean we’re injured or inhibited from doing our job. Once you become injured, and it relates to the degenerative condition…well, no such injury would ever be covered if not for this rule. Insurance companies could always point to some underlying but meaningless condition. This is not allowed under Vermont and New Hampshire workers’ compensation law because it doesn’t make sense. The insurance companies know this, but they know you probably don’t. So they exploit this knowledge to issue a bogus denial, knowing you probably will never be the wiser. I see these denials in Vermont and New Hampshire workers’ compensation cases tens of times per year. Like other “bogus denials” we quickly get up to challenge and win these disputes.
3) Repetitive Motion Injuries
Repetitive Motion Work Injuries (work injuries that occur overtime as a result of repetitive motions necessary at work) are prime targets for wrongful denials in Vermont workers’ compensation cases, and are almost always denied in New Hampshire workers’ compensation cases. The argument is that you can’t prove the injury is related to your work duties. Well, if it’s not related, you can’t; but even when it clearly is related, it is denied anyway.
Again, a real life example (with changes to protect anonymity) that reflects countless cases we have litigated:
John Doe works in an assembly factory putting together widgets requiring more or less the same repetitive motions over a prolonged period of time. Throughout this time, John has experienced increasing pain, tingling and numbness from his elbow into his pinky. He notices increased difficulty doing his work and doing stuff at home, such as grabbing milk out of the fridge. He goes to the doctor.
Important side-note (as touched on above): Like all truly independent doctors, John’s personal physician has no “skin in the game.” In other words, it makes no difference to him whether Mr. Doe’s injury is work-related or not. He doesn’t benefit from the source of the injury. He’s a practitioner that treats patients — he does not work for insurance companies. His only job and motivation is to diagnose the injury and make his patients better, whatever the source of the injury.
After an exhaustive examination, John’s doctor diagnosis his injury as severely inflamed tendonitis, and concludes, without question, that John’s injury is a direct result of the repetitive motion work he does for his employer.
However, the insurance company denies the claim anyway as “unrelated,” and ushers you off to see one of its defense medical examiners that it uses time and again. The defense medical examiner will almost certainly state that Mr. Doe’s injury is unrelated to his work. They will find any excuse for the cause of the injury other than the obvious one. And the denial will remain in place pending battle. I rarely cease to be amazed by how little care is put into the denial when these are brought to me. And so we fight.
4) “It didn’t happen at home base. We’re not responsible.”
Many people throughout Vermont and New Hampshire have jobs that require them to travel. For example, house painters and other contractors will often meet at a warehouse or some other type of headquarters before heading to the job site where the work is to be done. In most cases, if you’re involved in a motor vehicle accident to or from one of these jobs, it will be covered by workers’ compensation.
Likewise, if your job requires you to deliver or transport materials to job sites, if you happen to get in a collision, you would also be covered by workers’ compensation in addition to any potential claim against a negligent party that caused the collision. Regardless of fault, you would most likely be covered under workers’ compensation.
There are countless other examples of travel that are covered under workers’ compensation that would be covered if you’re involved in an accident and are injured. The employer or insurance company rarely offers or even knows that you’re entitled to work comp benefits under these circumstances. My clients are often surprised to learn that they are.
5) Your Claim Has Not Been Denied. Do You Need a Workers’ Compensation Lawyer?
Almost every ongoing workers’ compensation case we’ve evaluated – even just as favors for family and friends – have displayed inadequate compensation as required by the Work Comp Acts. For example, we have had people bring proposed settlements to us for review just prior to signing them, and almost always find tremendous omissions amounting to thousands of dollars. Some of them are obviously incorrect impairment ratings by some of the usual culprits (many times no impairment rating has been done at all!). Often times, huge portions of disability benefits haven’t been paid, and medical bills remain open because the company simply didn’t bother to pay them or erroneously argued they were unrelated. Vocational Rehabilitation hasn’t been offered when required. Most importantly, the insurance company fails to make a proper accounting of future medical expenses, and when the settlement is signed, the employee has no other recourse.
If your claim is open and being adjusted, have a workers’ compensation attorney review it. Sabbeth Law offers free analysis and consultations. Hopefully, all is well and you can check back in with us as you see fit. The value of peace of mind in learning your claim is going properly, or, alternatively, catching issues before the horse is all the way out of the barn and running amok, is well worth your time and is free.
We specialize in workers’ compensation cases throughout Vermont and New Hampshire. If you would like to discuss your case or potential claim, call us at 802-457-111 or click here. We will be more than happy to speak with you free of charge. If we do not take your case, we will do our best to give you direction.