Post-traumatic stress disorder is a serious problem that is usually associated with military service even though it may also impact first responders such as fire fighters and police. Although Pennsylvania’s workers’ compensation law is intended to pay for workplace injuries, it does not adequately cover PTSD suffered by emergency responders.
PTSD is one of the many risks faced by first responders. They have PTSD rates almost five times greater than civilians, according to US Fire Administration.
Suicides attributed to PTSD may be even greater than deaths suffered by firefighters in the line of duty. In 2017, 103 firefighters committed suicide compared to 93 deaths suffered in responding to emergencies. First responder suicides may be twice the number of deaths suffered in the line of duty because 60 percent of firefighter suicides may not be reported, according to estimates.
But the death, destruction, trauma and suffering witnessed by first responders and the danger that accompanies their work are considered a normal part of their job in Pennsylvania. Accordingly, the state Supreme Court ruled that first responders are not entitled to workers’ compensation benefits in a PTSD claim unless they faced an unusual occurrence in the line of duty.
Several bills have been introduced in the state legislature to address this shortcoming. One proposal, if enacted, would terminate the Court’s ruling and end this loophole.
Advocates for local governments and the insurance industry, however, argue that this proposal will increase workers’ compensation claims and have a heavy financial impact on local governments. They seek other measures that would focus on prevention and early involvement to prevent PTSD.
As this indicates, workers’ compensation may be complicated, and benefits may rely on numerous factual and legal issues. An attorney can help injured workers pursue their rights to compensation that may be needed to deal with their medical and daily needs.