As many of our South Carolina readers likely know, workers’ compensation laws vary by state, and often by industry. For example, individuals working in public service and safety, such as police officers and firefighters, have different parameters and procedures for filing for benefits if they have been injured on the job. In some cases, obtaining benefits can be difficult, if not impossible, such as when a police officer sustains a mental injury.
Recently, this type of mental injury has led South Carolina legislators to review the current workers’ compensation laws to determine if changes should be made. This most recent review comes after a police officer’s request for benefits was denied after was diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder following an altercation with a suspect which he was forced to shoot and kill in self defense. Having not worked since the incident, the officer has received disability benefits, but was denied workers’ compensation benefits due to the state Supreme Court ruling that the interaction leading to the post-traumatic stress disorder was not unusual or extraordinary for a police officer.
There are many that believe that these laws need to be changed to provide the men and women who serve our communities with benefits when they suffer any type of serious or traumatic injury. Lawmakers are now working to change the laws to exclude public safety workers, including police officers and firefighters, from having to meet the unusual or extraordinary standard in order to receive benefits. There is opposition to the changing of these laws, under the belief that allowing mentally injured public safety workers benefits would cause a more swift depletion of funds, which have already been cut.
One individual points out that up to 60 percent of workers’ compensation claims filed against city and county offices are filed by either police officers or firefighters. While the final outcome is yet to be determined, such a large number of filings reiterates that there is a high risk of being injured on the job for these individuals. Thus, change may be the only way to protect these workers and their families in the long term physically and mentally.
Source: thestate.com, “COLUMBIA, SC: SC lawmakers may change workers comp law for police, firefighters,” Adam Beam, March 2, 2013
Steven Krause is a personal injury, auto accident, and workers’ compensation lawyer who practices in Anderson, SC. He graduated form the Thomas M. Cooley School of Law and has been practicing law for 40 years now. Steven Krause believes in fighting for the injured. Learn more about his experience here.