By: James R. Spears
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Firefighter with PTSD commits suicide. Employer refused to offer help.
Police Officers and Firefighters are at significant risk for developing post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). This isn’t surprising as these First Responders are exposed to horrific things on the job. Clients of mine have described unimaginable calls they have responded to that have forever changed who they are, and caused them to experience anxiety and depression that often results in a diagnosis of PTSD. The current state of the law in Florida only requires Employers to provide First Responders with medical care for PTSD in certain circumstances. However, Employers often deny these claims, claiming that the First Responders “do not meet the requirements of the law”. Even in those few PTSD cases that are accepted as work-related, Employers usually do not pay for lost wages, citing the current state of the law.
Section 112.1815(1)(3), Florida Statutes reads as follows:
A mental or nervous injury involving a first responder and occurring as a manifestation of a compensable injury must be demonstrated by clear and convincing evidence. For a mental or nervous injury arising out of the employment unaccompanied by a physical injury involving a first responder, only medical benefits under s. 440.13 shall be payable for the mental or nervous injury. However, payment of indemnity as provided in s. 440.15 may not be made unless a physical injury arising out of injury as a first responder accompanies the mental or nervous injury.
Employers often hide behind this law and claim that their hands are tied and that they simply cannot provide treatment or lost wages for PTSD. This is completely false. Nothing in the law prohibits an Employer from providing benefits to First Responders. Just because the law as written allows an Employer to get away with denying claims or providing full medical care and lost wages, does not mean that they are unable to do so if they so desire. The law provides a base benefits that must be provided. Employers can and should do more for our First Responders, and have an ethical obligation to do so.
If you or someone you know has PTSD and needs help, please contact our office. We can put you in contact with mental health professionals and also assist with the filing of workers’ compensation and pension claims.
Need help? Contact:
James R. Spears, Esquire
Florida Bar Board Certified – Workers’ Compensation
Firefighters’ Council of Central Florida Building
4005 North Orange Blossom Trail
Orlando, Florida 32804
Phone: (407) 691-0300
Fax: (407) 667-8900
Toll Free – (888) 487-7488