First responders risk their lives and physical well-being every day that they are on the job. A first responder will likely be injured on the job at least once in their career (and some will be injured multiple times). When a first responder suffers a work-related injury, they can receive workers’ compensation benefits. However, these cases are not always easy and straightforward.
The attorneys at Horton & Mendez can help you as a first responder with a complex workers’ compensation claim. Contact our Wilmington workers’ comp attorneys today to discuss your case.
Types of Injuries Suffered by First Responders
First responders have stressful jobs, both physically and mentally. For example, police officers are frequently running or stepping on unfamiliar terrain. Firefighters are carrying heavy gear when stepping on potentially unstable surfaces.
The most common injury among first responders is sprains and strains. Police officers, paramedics, and firefighters may miscalculate their steps when they are in a hurry or cannot see where they are going.
Here are some other common types of injuries that first responders suffer on the job:
- Motor vehicle accidents: First responders are often seriously hurt in crashes because they travel at high speed to answer calls
- Smoke inhalation: Firefighters are often exposed to smoke and other toxins and chemicals on the job
- Physical assaults: Police officers may be injured when they are apprehending suspects
- Slip and fall injuries: First responders enter the premises in a hurry, often without being able to see where they are going
In addition, emergency medical personnel could suffer from occupational illness because they are exposed to people who may have contagious conditions.
The job-related injury does not have to be physical. One estimate is that 30% of first responders will suffer from depression or other stress-related injuries from the rigors of their job and what they have experienced. These are also considered work-related injuries that could entitle you to financial compensation.
First Responders Can Receive Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Their Injuries
First responders are eligible for workers’ compensation under North Carolina law. In general, the legislature does what it can to protect first responders and recognize the sacrifices they make for their job. For example, the legislature recently passed a law that allows first responders to receive workers’ compensation benefits when they have suffered PTSD from their jobs.
A first responder has the same obligation as any other injured worker in order to be in a legal position to receive workers’ compensation benefits. They must prove that they suffered a work-related injury. An injured first responder can file their claim with the North Carolina Industrial Commission, which is tasked with administering claims.
If the injured first responder is able to prove their entitlement to workers’ compensation benefits, they can receive the following:
- Two-thirds of their average weekly wage, up to a statutory cap
- The reasonable costs of medical care to treat their injuries
- If the first responder died from their injuries, North Carolina law allows families to receive a one-time $100,000 death benefit
Unfortunately, the North Carolina Industrial Commission may not approve every request for benefits. They may deny that you were injured, or they may claim that your injury was not work-related (in spite of the many hazards that first responders face). In that event, you can file an appeal of your benefits denial.
Potential Third Party Lawsuits for First Responder Injuries
Like any injured worker, a first responder who has been injured on the job would work to find a third party who may be responsible for what happened to them. The main reason you want to file a personal injury lawsuit, as opposed to a workers’ compensation claim, is because you can be paid more if you win. The responsible party would need to pay your full lost wages and non-economic damages, such as pain and suffering.
Your lawyer would review your case to see if you can sue anyone for your injuries. Under North Carolina law, it is extremely difficult to sue your employer for a personal injury. However, you may be able to sue the following third parties in a personal injury case.
- A manufacturer when you have been injured by work equipment
- The driver of another car that injured you in a crash
- A premises owner when your injury came from exposure to toxic substances
North Carolina does not apply what is called the “firefighter’s rule.” This rule prohibits a first responder injured in the line of duty from suing someone whose negligence brought them to the scene where they were hurt. Potentially, an injured first responder may even sue a third party whose negligence was responsible for their job-related injury.
It is crucial that you contact an attorney after you have been hurt to review your legal options. Based on North Carolina law, you may have more routes to compensation than you think. In addition, you want to make sure that you follow the legal requirements for a claim.
Contact an Attorney for First Responder Injuries Today
It never hurts to talk with a lawyer. It does not cost you anything to consult with a workers’ compensation and personal injury lawyer. The attorneys at Horton & Mendez are standing by and ready to talk to you today. We can provide you with an initial consultation, where we will evaluate your case and discuss what avenues you can pursue to be compensated for your injuries.
You can send us a message online or call us today at (919) 668-8067.
First Responder Injury Claim FAQs
How do I win a personal injury lawsuit against a third party?
You must prove that they were negligent, meaning that they acted unreasonably under the circumstances and it caused your injuries.
What happens if I suffered permanent injuries?
You can reach a workers’ compensation settlement, and the amount would depend on your disability rating.
How much does a workers’ compensation lawyer cost me?
You do not need to pay anything if your case is not successful. If you do win, your lawyer would be paid from the proceeds of your case.