Vermont's system of workers' compensation is compulsory, meaning that employers are required to provide workers' compensation insurance to their employees. Workers' compensation insurance may be provided through private insurance carriers or self-insurance. Waivers may be permitted to exclude certain employees from coverage, including corporate officers.
Exemptions from coverage may apply to certain employees, including the employees of small agricultural enterprises, labor performed for homeowners in or about their dwellings, and casual laborers.
Medical Benefits are provided to employees entitled to workers' compensation benefits, including coverage for reasonable and necessary medical care.
The employer chooses the initial treating physician. An employee may change the treating physician at any time by filing a written notice with the employer. Employees may obtain a second opinion at their own expense.
Indemnity benefits are payable to injured workers to help make up for lost income. There is a waiting period of 3 days before a worker is eligible for indemnity benefits, but if the worker's disability lasts more than 10 days indemnity benefits become retroactive to the date of the injury.
Benefits available to injured workers include the following:
Temporary Total Disability (TTD)
Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits are paid to workers who are unable to work due to injury, but who are expected to make full or partial recovery such that they may return to work. Benefits are based upon 2/3 of the injured worker's pre-injury wages, subject to a cap, with a small additional payment per dependent, and may continue for the duration of the temporary disability. The injured worker's status is reviewed after two years.
Permanent Total Disability (PTD)
When a worker is not expected to recover from a total disability caused by a work-related injury, and as a result suffers a total loss of earning capacity, the worker becomes eligible for permanent total disability (PTD) benefits. In Vermont PTD benefits are calculated based upon 2/3 of the worker's pre-injury wages, subject to a cap, and can continue for the duration of the disability. Benefits are periodically adjusted for inflation. An offset may apply based upon recovery from third parties.
Permanent Partial Disability (PPD)
Once an injured worker has recovered to the maximum possible extent, the worker may be able to return to employment but nonetheless remain partially disabled, and may potentially qualify for permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits. In Vermont PPD benefits are determined based on a schedule and an assessment of the injured worker's functional impairment, and are calculated based upon 2/3 of the worker's average weekly wage, subject to a cap. PPD for an unscheduled injury may be payable for a maximum of 405 weeks for non-spinal injuries, or 550 weeks for spinal injuries.
Temporary Partial Disability (TPD)
When a worker suffers an injury that limits his ability to return to work, resulting in a reduction of income as a result of reduced hours or wages, the injured worker may be eligible to receive a benefit based on the difference between the worker's pre-injury earnings and their reduced, post-injury earnings. In Vermont, TPD benefits are paid based upon /3 of the difference between the injured worker's pre-injury and post-injury wage, subject to a cap. The injured worker's status is reviewed after two years.
Coverage may be available for cumulative trauma, disfigurement, mental stress and occupational hearing loss.
When a worker dies as the result of a work-related injury, workers' compensation pays additional benefits, including a burial allowance, and benefits for a surviving spouse and dependents. Survivor benefits are calculated based on 71-2/3% of the worker's average weekly wage, subject to a cap in amount. Benefits may continue for minors until the age of 18, but may continue past the age of 18 if the dependent is a student in an approved program or in the event of disability. After a minimum of 330 weeks of benefits, a spouse's benefits end upon remarriage, at the age of 62, or upon eligibility for Social Security. The balance of the 330 week minimum, if any, is payable to the spouse following remarriage.
Attorney fees are limited by administrative rule, and are set on a case-by-case basis at up to 20% of the award or up to $145 per hour. If awarded by a commissioner or judge, the attorney fee is paid by the employer or workers' compensation insurer in addition to benefits due to the employer.
This article provides a quick overview of the benefits available to injured workers, but the full formulas used for assessment of benefits, coordination of different types of benefits, and assessment of injuries and disability ratings can quickly complicate the determination of benefits. Also, states frequently revise their workers' compensation laws. Most workers who suffer a significant injury or wage loss as the result of a workplace injury will benefit from consulting a workers' compensation lawyer.
The state agency responsible for workers' compensation is:
Vermont Department of Labor
Workers' Compensation Division
National Life Building, Drawer 20
Montpelier, VT 05620-3401
(802) 828-2286 or 1-800-734-2286