Workers’ compensation is a vital safety net for injured workers and their families, providing them with needed benefits for medical treatment, income supplementation, vocational rehabilitation, and more. For many people, workers’ comp is typically associated with workers who suffer physical injuries, such as a broken bone or back injury, while performing job-related duties. However, it can also cover workers who experience illnesses and other qualifying occupational diseases. Under a new Florida law that recently went into effect, it now also includes PTSD experienced by first responders.
The new law, which took effect on the first of October 2018, makes first responders suffering from job-related post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. According to the legislation, PTSD is defined as an occupational disease for first responders such as:
- Law enforcement officers
- Emergency medical technicians (EMTs)
Individuals in these professions have admirable but difficult jobs, and must often confront tragic and harrowing situations. In some cases, those experiences can leave lasting scars and symptoms that impact the professional and personal lives of first responders and their families, including depression, anxiety, suicidal thoughts, and more. The new law is a welcomed acceptance by the state’s legislature that mental health is as equally important as physical health on the job.
How Florida First Responders with PTSD May Qualify for Workers’ Comp
Though the new law allows first responders to seek workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD, there are stipulations about how one qualifies. This includes the nature of the underlying traumatic event. For example, the law states first responders must personally:
- Witness a homicide
- Witness, treat, or transport a child who dies
- Witness, treat, or transport an adult who dies following serious bodily harm
Advocates weighing in on the new law say the definition is broad enough to apply to many situations which can cause post-traumatic stress disorder, though some experts say it could be expanded to cover other situations aside from death that may result in PTSD. Additionally, because it requires a first responder to personally “witness” an incident or actively assist a victim, it will not apply to emergency dispatchers.
Another important qualifying criteria under the new law includes the requirement that first responders file PTSD-related workers’ comp claims within one year of the traumatic incident. The law also mandates employers of first responders to provide training and education on mental health, PTSD, accumulative stress, and more.
Legal Representation for Florida First Responders
Our team at Rosenberg & Rosenberg, P.A. has tremendous respect for the courageous men and women who sacrifice their health and safety to help our communities and those in need. In honor of their invaluable work, we proudly serve first responders when they are faced with unfamiliar and challenging legal endeavors, including workers’ compensation claims for PTSD and other occupational injuries or illnesses, and personal injury lawsuits resulting from accidents and injuries they sustain on or off the job.
If you would like more information about the new law, the Florida workers’ compensation process, and how our award-winning legal team can help you, please call (888) 499-6206 or contact us online for a FREE consultation.