New Law Helps Police Officers, Firefighters, Paramedics, and Emergency Medical Technicians Get Workers’ Compensation for PTSD
This year a new law went into effect to help medical and public safety personal get workers’ compensation for post-traumatic stress or PTSD. First responders, police officers and firefighters face a growing and deadly risk every time they are called to the scene of an accident, crime, etc. These risks include injuries, fires, gunfire, chemical exposures, traffic accidents, etc. These risks can take a toll on one’s mental health including a diagnosis of PTSD.
Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a severe, often chronic and disabling disorder, which develops in some persons following exposure to a traumatic event involving actual or threatened injury to themselves or others. PTSD is characterized by intrusive thoughts, nightmares, and flashbacks of past traumatic events, avoidance of reminders of trauma, hypervigilance, and sleep disturbance, all of which lead to considerable social, occupational, and interpersonal dysfunction.
According to studies cited by the National Alliance on Mental Illness(NAMI), between seven percent and 19 percent of police officers experience symptoms of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder, compared to 3.5 percent of the general population. According to the Bureau of Labor and Statistics, police officers have a higher risk of incurring a work-related injury or illness than most other occupations. On average, 115 police and sheriff’s patrol officers suffered fatal work injuries each year from 2003 to 2014. Another 30,990 nonfatal injuries involving days away from work were reported for police and sheriff’s patrol officers on average each year from 2009 to 2014. Statistics for other public services personnel is very similar.
Prior to October of 2013, PTSD alone was not a recognized injury in Minnesota. In fact, in order for PTSD to be a compensable work-related injury, you would have needed a physical injury of some sort. Since October of 2013, that is no longer the case. PTSD is a recognized occupational disease. In order to have a diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder, you need a diagnosis by a licensed psychiatrist or psychologist. Even with a diagnosis, an injured worker would need to prove that the work activities or exposure were a substantial contributing cause to the condition. Also, there would need to be a direct causal connection between the conditions under which the work is performed. The initial burden was on the employee to establish the connection.
Incidentally, the Minnesota Legislature took a step forward by passing legislation to establish a “presumption” for service personnel.
- an employee who was employed on active duty as: a licensed police officer; a firefighter; a paramedic; an emergency medical technician; a licensed nurse employed to provide emergency medical services outside of a medical facility; a public safety dispatcher; an officer employed by the state or a political subdivision at a corrections, detention, or secure treatment facility; a sheriff or full-time deputy sheriff of any county; or a member of the Minnesota State Patrol is diagnosed with a mental impairment… and had not been diagnosed with the mental impairment previously, then the mental impairment is presumptively an occupational disease and shall be presumed to have been due to the nature of employment.
Now, this presumption can be rebutted by the employer and insurer, but it would require “substantial factors” to do so. Substantial factors are not specifically defined so this area might have to be litigated or get further clarification from the legislature. Hopefully, this will streamline benefits to service personnel and avoid unnecessary denials and delays.
If you have suffered from PTSD or post-traumatic stress and would like to discuss your workers’ compensation case. Call us at 1(855)354-2667 for a free no hassle consultation.
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