Section 20(a) Presumption

We know that a person accused of a crime is always presumed innocent until proven guilty. In fact, the legal concept of the “presumption of innocence” is just one example of many different legal presumptions. A legal presumption is something that a court will decide is true (or presume is true) until there is some other, persuasive factual evidence to disprove it.  

So, looking at the presumption of innocence as an example, when a police officer writes a police report that accuses someone of committing a crime, the judge and jury must always presume that the accused is innocent of that accused crime until the prosecutor puts facts before a jury to prove that the accused is, in fact, guilty.  

What does all this have to do with workers’ compensation, section 20(a), and the Longshore and Harbor Workers’ Compensation Act (Longshore Act)?  

Well, if you are a worker covered by the Longshore Act, then you will enjoy certain legal presumptions when you file a workers’ compensation claim for a workplace injury. One such presumption, and a very important presumption at that is Section 20(a) of the Longshore Act.

Accordingly, we are going to take a little time today to talk about the Section 20(a) presumption. Yet, this article is just a brief overview. If, after reading this article, you have more questions about your own workers’ compensation claim, then the RITE Law Longshore & Harbor worker injury lawyers in Jacksonville, Florida can help.   

At RITE Law, we have a group of Longshore & Harbor worker injury lawyers in Jacksonville who have your best interests at heart, and that have the training and resources to make sure that you receive the compensation you deserve. Our number is (904) 500-RITE or you can fill out our contact form online. We provide a free case evaluation, so call today.

The Presumption Under the Longshore Act at Section 20(a)?

The Section 20(a) presumption under the Longshore Act allows judges to make an initial assumption (i.e., presumption) that what an injured worker puts in a workers’ compensation claim is true. In other words, if you are hurt at work, the information that you put in your workers’ compensation claim will initially viewed as a true statement of what happened.  

The inquiry, however, does not end there. The Section 20(a) presumption is a rebuttable presumption. That means that your employer, or your employer’s insurance carrier, can rebut (or refute) what you say in your workers’ compensation claim.  

This type of inquiry into a workers’ compensation claim is called a burden shifting inquiry.

1. You make a workers’ comp claim,
2. The burden shifts to your employer to rebut that claim (if it does not agree with the facts in your claim),
3. Then the burden shifts back to you to show that the employer’s response is not accurate.

Let’s take a look at a real-world case example of how Section 20(a) works in operation.  

You Still Need to Make Your Case in Your Initial Claim

When you first make a workers’ compensation claim under the Longshore Act, you need some proof that the facts you put in your claim are accurate. A medical record documenting a doctor’s visit about your injury, and perhaps the email you sent to your supervisor reporting the workplace accident resulting in the injury, could be enough to make that initial showing of validity.

Once you have made an initial showing with some proof that the injury happened at work, the Section 20(a) presumption kicks in to help establish that your injury was caused by an incident at work.  

Make Sure Your Claim Includes All of Your Injuries

The Section 20(a) presumption only applies to injuries that you claim on your Longshore Act claim form. Here is an example when the worker failed to include off of his injuries:

A worker made a Longshore Act claim that his back and groin were injured at work. Once the worker’s case was before an administrative judge, the worker added in court that the steroids he was taking for his back caused a heart condition.  

The judge decided, under Section 20(a), that the heart condition was presumed to be work-related.  

The employer appealed the judge’s decision. The appeals court reversed the judge’s decision, finding that Section 20(a) could not be used to connect the heart condition to the work injury because the worker never mentioned a heart condition in his initial claim. It then ruled that the worker could not rely on Section 20(a), but rather had to factually prove that the heart condition “naturally or unavoidably” resulted from his back injury.  

Fortunately, the appeals court did not say that the worker could not receive compensation for the heart condition at all.  Rather, it found that the Section 20(a) presumption did not apply to the heart condition. 

Section 20(a) is About Burden Shifting

The most important takeaway with regard to the Section 20(a) presumption is, as noted above, once you make a claim with some evidence to support it, then the burden to prove that your injury was not work-related falls on the employer. In other words, the burden shifts to your employer.

Once your employer makes a showing that the injury was not work related, then the Section 20(a) presumption goes away, and the judge must weigh all the facts to determine whether compensation should be paid. However, if your employer is unable to rebut your claim, then Section 20(a) makes it that much easier for the judge to conclude that your injury was related to your work, so you are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.

Let RITE Law Help You Make the Strongest Longshore Act Claim Possible

The RITE Law Longshore & Harbor worker injury lawyers in Jacksonville started their firm for one reason – to help those in Florida and elsewhere have the resources of a firm that was big enough to fight but small enough to care. At Rudolph, Israel, Tucker & Ellis (RITE law), we have the resources and experience to go to trial when it is necessary, and we have the wisdom to advise you appropriately.  

Expect lots of attention, passionate representation and a healthy disdain for big insurance companies. We believe that leads to the best result possible. Unlike larger firms, your case isn’t handed to a paralegal or assistant to do the heavy lifting. The attorney you meet initially is the one who will be by your side every step of the way.

We also take pride in creating an atmosphere where every client is treated like family. Family members stick up for one another no matter what. You should expect nothing less from the RITE Law Longshore & Harbor worker injury lawyers in Jacksonville.

Without help from the RITE team, making Longshore Act claims can be very difficult. When you turn to our firm, we spring into action, making sure that every detail of your claim is addressed. Call us for help. Our number is (904) 500-RITE or you can fill out our contact form online. We provide a free case evaluation, so feel free to call us today.