Police officers and first responders are subject to major risks and hazards on a daily basis. Traffic accidents, shootings, assault, falls, and job-related illnesses are all a reality for many officers who are charged with the duty to keep the public safe. And like other employees, police officers and other first responders are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits should they sustain an on-the-job injury or be killed in the line of duty. They might also be eligible for benefits via several other federal, state and local programs.
Types of Available Benefits
Under workers’ compensation, employees are entitled to medical benefits, wage replacement benefits, permanent disability and job training assistance. Wage replacement benefits are generally calculated at two-thirds of the employee’s pre-injury income and are payable for up to 400 weeks. Death benefits are also available for survivors when first responders sustain fatal injuries.
There are other sources of benefits that injured officers or their family members will want to look into should a major injury or death occur. If the responders sustain a work injury, they will usually qualify to file a claim under the Pennsylvania Heart and Lung Act. This act provides that police officers and first responders are entitled to full, tax-free wage replacement for temporary disability.
Families of first responders who were fatally wounded on duty have access to various additional benefits as well.
- Public Safety Officers Benefits Program – Administered by the Department of Justice, this program provides death benefits and education assistance for survivors.
- Social Security death benefits
- Pennsylvania Death Benefit Payment – The Pennsylvania Department of General Services offers a large, one-time payment to survivors whose spouses died in the line of duty.
- Burial assistance
- Health insurance
- Federal Workers’ Comp for Non-Federal Law Enforcement Officers
To learn more about what types of benefits you have available, speak to a work injury attorney in your area who specifically handles claims for police officers and other first responders.
Common Roadblocks to Workers’ Compensation Claims
It goes without saying that officers and first responders who put their lives on the line each day deserve the same benefits as everyone else should they sustain an injury. Unfortunately, though, many injured officers’ workers’ compensation claims are denied. Some of the common reasons claims get denied include the following.
- The officer failed to report the injury or waited too long to file a claim.
- The officer failed to tell the doctor the injury was work-related.
- The first responder made errors or omissions on the claim form.
- The injury was self-inflicted.
- The first responder was intoxicated when the injury occurred.
- The officer’s injury was psychological in nature. Psychological and emotional injuries, while often compensable under workers’ compensation, are a sticky issue for public safety workers because of a clause in the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation Act. The act states that in order for the psychological injury to be compensable, it must have been caused by “abnormal working conditions.” Police officers, first responders and firefighters have work conditions that are, by nature, more traumatic and upsetting than say, an office worker. As such, they are held to a higher standard, so proving a psychological injury is more burdensome.
- Their workers’ compensation claim interfered with their Heart and Lung Act or their Social Security benefits. Caution: Ensure you speak to a lawyer before filing any claims so as not to thwart your rights to benefits.
Cordisco & Saile LLC Can Help Injured First Responder Secure Benefits in PA
If you are an officer, firefighter, rescue worker or other first responder in Pennsylvania and were injured on the job or sustained an occupational disease, you are encouraged to call our legal team at Cordisco & Saile LLC. We will act as your legal adviser and advocate and help you obtain the maximum amount of benefits possible. The same holds true if you recently lost your loved one to a work incident. Call us today at 215-642-2335 or fill out our online contact form and schedule a free consultation.