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Recent Changes in Florida Workers’ Compensation Law for First Responders

Firefighter

Most people in the community can probably agree that first responders – a category that encompasses police officers, firefighters, paramedics and other emergency personnel – face unique challenges in their respective professions. After all, they are the people who get called when others are facing a crisis. As a result, first responders often witness unspeakable horrors as a part of a routine work shift. Incidents such as the tragedies at Pulse Nightclub and the Parkland shootings are examples in recent history where Floridian first responders were called to duty in grim circumstances.

Despite this, Florida workers’ compensation law has historically been very limited for first responders to recover for the emotional toll their jobs take. However, as of October 1st of this year, workers’ compensation insurance claims for first responders have been expanded.

What Change Was Implemented as of October 1, 2018?

The state of Florida enacted a new law that enables first responders who have suffered from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result of certain work-related traumatic incidents to file a claim for workers’ compensation.

PTSD and First Responders

Statistics suggest that the importance of this change is clear. As reported by CBS Miami, over 6.6 percent of 4000 first responders surveyed in a 2015 article published in the Journal of Emergency Medical Services admitted to attempting suicide, which is a rate that is more than ten times that of the general population.

Recognizing Signs of PTSD

According to the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, symptoms of PTSD may not manifest immediately and can in fact take several months, or even years, to appear after a traumatizing event. PTSD can materialize in several ways which include symptoms such as:

  • Flashbacks, nightmares, and hallucinations
  • Sleep and concentration disruptions
  • Recurring, upsetting memories of the event
  • Hypervigilance and paranoia
  • Emotional changes including numbness, irritability, and a desire to withdraw from previously-enjoyed activities
  • Blatant avoidance of anything that is a reminder of the event, including the scene of it, people involved, or similar activities

As 67 percent of people who are exposed to mass violence experience PTSD in some form, it seems fitting that legislation is now in place to help first responders recover via workers’ compensation since many aspects of their jobs involve exposure to mass violence. Both first responders and the people who love them should keep an eye out for these symptoms following a traumatic incident on the job, as those who suffer from PTSD can have trouble recognizing the symptoms in themselves.

What Are the Circumstances Under Which First Responders Can File a Claim Under the New Law?

First responders who suffer from PTSD may recover under the new law either:

  • When he or she has witnessed the death of a minor, or
  • When he or she witnessed a death of a person of any age that involves a bodily harm so grievous that it “shocks the conscious”

Are You a First Responder Who Has Been Injured on the Job? Contact Us Today

If you or someone you love has been injured while working as a first responder, we can help you understand how the recent changes in the law can benefit you. The Miami workers’ compensation attorneys at Payer & Associates have significant experience helping people like you obtain the compensation you are entitled to. Begin by contacting us today to schedule a free consultation.

Resources:

adaa.org/understanding-anxiety/posttraumatic-stress-disorder-ptsd/symptoms

miami.cbslocal.com/2018/09/25/new-florida-laws-to-take-effect-on-ptsd-benefits-animal-abuse/

flsenate.gov/Session/Bill/2018/00376

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