The Application of the Amorphous “Death Presumption” in Virginia Workers’ Compensation

03/02/2016 by Attorney Brian L. Sykes

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Authored by Brett M. Saunders and Brian L. Sykes

Many practitioners in the field of workers’ compensation are aware of the “death presumption.” The rule is often understood as this: when an employee is found dead at his place of work, there is a presumption that a compensable injury has occurred. However, this is not the case. Although such a presumption does exist, it is severely limited in scope and rarely applicable to a workers’ compensation claim.

Knowing the limited scope of the presumption can be extremely valuable to practitioners because the presumption itself carries significant weight with the court. This article is intended to explain Virginia’s death presumption and examine the many caveats to its application by examining the purpose and effect of the death presumption, its origin and history, and its application by the courts.

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This article originally appeared in the Journal of Civil Litigation, Vol. 27, No. 1 (Spring 2015), a publication of the Virginia Association of Defense Attorneys. It appears here with permission.

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