Emergency Workers and First Responders

Chicago Lawyers Skilled in Workers' Compensation Claims

Emergency workers and first responders come onto the scene shortly after disastrous situations, such as car accidents and fires. Often, they are on the front lines of natural disasters, crimes, and accidents. The work is challenging, and lives are at stake. Emergency workers and first responders who suffer a disability or PTSD from on-the-job events may be eligible for workers' compensation benefits. You should contact the Chicago workers' compensation attorneys at Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Eagle, Johnson & Bareck if you believe that you have a claim.

Injuries Involving Emergency Workers and First Responders

Emergency workers and first responders are often in physical danger. For example, if there is a fire, emergency workers may be at risk of smoke inhalation, burns, scars, disfigurement, and any complications from those. Adverse experiences on the job can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder even in people who are otherwise in sound mental health. First responders may develop PTSD after witnessing and experiencing a series of traumatic events and facing work-related stress. Symptoms of PTSD include an exaggerated response to sudden movements and sounds, deliberate risk-taking, withdrawal from friends and family members, alcohol abuse, and an inability to talk about traumatic events at work.

If you experience physical injuries on the job as an emergency worker or first responder, our attorneys can help you pursue workers' compensation benefits. The benefits that may be available include disability benefits, medical benefits, mileage reimbursement, vocational rehabilitation, and maintenance benefits. Survivors of an emergency worker or first responder who dies on the job may be entitled to get survivor benefits and funeral expenses. A first responder’s spouse, kids, and dependents can get death benefits when a worker passes away because of a work injury. The death benefits will be equal to two-thirds of the worker’s average weekly wage.

It can be challenging to recover benefits if you have PTSD from the job. However, an Illinois appellate court has ruled that fire officials who experienced PTSD after one of their own had died on the job should be able to get workers' compensation benefits. The claimant had responded to a house fire with his fire engine and crew, along with others. He witnessed firefighters dragging another emergency responder out of the house, not wearing a helmet or mask, and got the person medical care. The person died as a result of fire-related injuries. The claimant was not allowed to return to work until a psychiatrist cleared him, and he was diagnosed with PTSD. He suffered from visual flashbacks, difficulty sleeping, irritability, difficulty relating, and isolation, and he required continuing treatment.

The Commission decided that the fire officer did not sustain an accident that arose from employment. The employer argued that his delay in getting psychological treatment suggested that he had not suffered an accidental injury on the date of the fire. The appellate court disagreed, reasoning that the employer's conduct after the fire suggested that it believed that the first responders had experienced a greater shock than the regular emotional strain that employees suffer when faced with pressure and anxiety.

The first responders had to be debriefed, and for the first time in its history, the department stopped doing fire suppression for 10 days, referring the calls to mutual aid companies. The defendant needed to be cleared by a doctor hired by the employer. Accordingly, the court found that the Commission's decision was against the manifest weight of the evidence, and the claimant got workers' compensation benefits for his psychological disability, arising from the single traumatic event of watching a coworker die.

Seek Assistance from a Work Injury Lawyer in the Chicago Area

If you were injured while working as an emergency worker or first responder, you should consult an experienced attorney about your potential claim. At Katz, Friedman, Eisenstein, Eagle, Johnson & Bareck, we represent accident victims in Quincy, Rockford, Champaign, Springfield, and Aurora, as well as other areas of Adams, Winnebago, Champaign, Sangamon, Kane, and Cook Counties. You can call us at 312-263-6330 or toll-free at 800-444-1525 for a free consultation.