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Police all over nation push for benefits for trauma survivors

Since the horrifying mass shooting at a Newtown school in 2012, Connecticut lawmakers have been hotly debating whether to expand workers’ compensation benefits to cover psychological conditions suffered by police due to their traumatic on-the-job experiences. While this debate is tied intimately with state law, local politics and recent history, similar debates are going on in other states as well.

All over the nation, police unions have been fighting to expand workers’ compensation benefits to cover post traumatic stress disorder. While the debate over the benefits is often tied in with high-profile mass shootings in Connecticut and Colorado, some advocates for police officers say PTSD is actually widespread among police officers, who are often exposed to violence and its horrifying aftermath.

Advocates say the exact numbers are hard to ascertain because many police officers are afraid to come forward and admit they are having psychological problems. Some officers who have spoken about their PTSD report feelings of anxiety and depression that make it difficult or impossible to return to work. Without workers’ compensation benefits, these officers may have to pay for their own psychological treatment and go without their salaries.

Efforts to extend workers’ compensation benefits to police suffering from PTSD has stalled in Connecticut’s legislature and failed in Colorado’s legislature. A similar measure is being considered in South Carolina’s legislature after that state’s Supreme Court denied one traumatized police officer’s attempt to receive benefits to treat PTSD.

Connecticut’s workers’ compensation system is designed to be more efficient and cost-effective than other means of seeking compensation, such as filing a lawsuit against an employer. It’s also supposed to be more inclusive than a lawsuit, because the injured worker does not have to prove that the employer was negligent in order to be compensated.

Along with these advantages come some limitations, and one of the greatest limitations on workers’ compensation is that benefits are predetermined according to lists of types of injuries and illnesses. When workers have work-related illnesses or injuries that fall between the cracks of these lists, they need the help of skilled workers’ compensation attorneys.

Source: Minneapolis Star Tribune, “After mass shootings, cities resist police unions’ push for medical coverage of officers’ PTSD,” Sadie Gurman, May 16, 2014

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Verdicts & Settlements

36-year-old laborer for landscaping company fractured wrist when fellow employee hit him with truck. Claimant received in excess of $30,000 in workers’ compensation benefits for total disability and medical expenses and settled with automobile insurance company for fellow employee for $95,000.

1989 workers’ compensation claim settled for $125,000. Claimant originally sustained a low back injury when she slipped and fell at local grocery store resulting in low back surgery in 1989. Several years later, claimant exacerbated her low back injury. Claim was reopened and settled with carrier for $125,000 in 2006.

47-year-old deli clerk sustained low back injuries at work for local supermarket. Carrier originally denied claim on the grounds that the injury was pre-existing. After formal workers’ compensation hearing carrier accepted claim and paid all total disability benefits and medical expenses in excess of $100,000. Case then settled for an additional $100,000 after injured person received a permanent disability rating.

34-year-old male roofer sustained multiple injuries to his shoulder, neck, back and hip when he fell from roof during work. Claimant was provided workers’ compensation benefits in excess of $100,000 and settled remaining claims for an additional $55,000.

40-year-old male working for cleaning company sustained neck and low back injuries when he fell on defective staircase while cleaning local museum. Claimant recovered over $95,000 in workers’ compensation benefits and resolved claim against museum for $85,000.

26-year-old laborer sustained fractured foot when a cast iron pipe was dropped on his foot. Employer and workers’ compensation carrier denied claim on basis that injured worker was an independent contractor. After a series of informal and formal workers’ compensation hearings, carrier conceded that claimant was an employee and settled case for $85,000.

24-year-old waitress sustained back injury while working at Outback Steak House. Workers’ compensation insurance company initially denied the claim. After a series of informal hearings, carrier accepted claim paying medical expenses and total disability benefits. In addition to those benefits paid, claim settled for an additional $75,000.

Delivery truck driver sustained right wrist fracture in rear-end motor vehicle accident while in the course of his employment. Claimant recovered in excess of $40,000 in workers’ compensation benefits for medical expenses and total disability benefits. Claimant settled case against at-fault driver for $105,000.

22-year-old male working as stocking clerk at “big box” retailer sustained herniated disc in low back. Workers’ compensation carrier refused to accept the claim. After formal workers’ compensation, hearing commissioner ordered carrier to pay over $35,000 in past total disability benefits and pay for surgery and all related medical expenses. Case settled for an additional $35,000 for a total recovery in excess of $100,000.

Rear-end collision on entrance ramp to Merritt Parkway resulting in 49-year-old woman sustaining mid-back injury. Case settled at mediation after filing suit for $300,000.

28-year-old passenger sustained multiple herniated discs in automobile accident in New York state. New York no-fault carrier paid for extended period of disability from work and medical expenses, including expenses for surgery. Case settled against driver of vehicle for $300,000 policy limits shortly after filing suit.

54-year-old man sustains shoulder injury when hit from behind by uninsured motorist on New Jersey Turnpike. Case settled for $135,000 prior to trial.

CT Transit bus driver sustained torn meniscus in collision with another vehicle. Claims made against at-fault driver, workers’ compensation carrier and client’s underinsured motorist policy. All claims settle for a recovery in excess of $100,000.

68-year-old woman sustained neck and back injuries in rear-end collision and required extended course physical therapy, but was not a surgical candidate. Case settled for $100,000 prior to filing suit.

34-year-old woman sustained concussion and neck and back injuries in hit-and-run accident on a New York highway. Claimant settled uninsured motorist claim for her $100,000 policy limits.

80-year-old woman sustained right foot fracture when her foot was run over in a parking lot. Case settled for at-fault driver’s policy limit of $100,000 prior to filing suit.

38-year-old nanny sustained right femur fracture when she fell down defective stairs in home of her employer’s neighbor. All medical expenses and lost wages reimbursed and case settled for an additional $150,000.

Claim against landlord for defective staircase in multi-family rental house. Claimant sustained a right femur fracture. Case settled for $125,000 prior to filing suit.

$95,000 judgment obtained against bar and nightclub for assault by one of its patrons against another patron.

47-year-old woman sustained a broken left wrist when she fell from porch stairs at house she was renting. Case settled for $95,000 shortly before trial.

26-year-old male bitten on leg by German shepherd. Claim against dog owner settled for $65,000 plus payment of all medical expenses.