When employees and officers are injured on the job, sometimes injuries are not readily apparent. It can sometimes take weeks or even months to realize the full impact of emotional and physical injuries. And when injuries like PTSD or emotional trauma arise, it can be difficult to pinpoint the exact date those injuries began.
In a recent case, the court grappled with an incredibly sensitive PTSD issue resulting from a highly publicized school shooting. After the court’s opinion, an officer involved in the aftermath of the shooting will be able to receive PTSD benefits. This case highlights how important workers’ compensation benefits can be in rectifying harms in the workplace.
Facts of the Case
The claimant in the case was a police officer who responded to the shooting at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. In the months afterward, he realized he was experiencing symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), including anger, nightmares, and anxiety. He was eventually placed on administrative leave in November 2018, with various days of leave for the PTSD symptoms throughout the next year, followed by light duty and then termination in January 2020. He petitioned for benefits after he was terminated, listing dates he was taken out of work as “dates of accident.” Experts testified that his December leave was due to PTSD related to the shooting and that he did not meet all PTSD criteria until December 2018.
Of importance, the relevant workers’ compensation statute did not incorporate PTSD suffered by a first responder as a qualified occupational disease without a physical injury until October of 2018. The judge of compensation claims said that there could be multiple accident dates for a PTSD injury that correspond with each date of disability and found that the claimant was entitled to benefits. The employer appealed, claiming the controlling date of the accident was the date of the shooting—February 14, 2018.
The Court’s Decision
The court ultimately sided with the claimant and the judge of compensation claims. The court agreed with the claimant that compensability of occupational diseases is determined by dates of disability, rather than dates of exposure to harm. Because the dates of administrative leave were after the PTSD provisions of the workers’ compensation were enacted, the claimant was thus entitled to benefits. The court also said that this would not require any retroactive application of the law because rights are fixed at the time of injury, which was after the date the statute was enacted.
Florida Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you’ve suffered a condition or injury on the job, you may be entitled to benefits. Even if your employer insists you do not have a claim, reach out to an experienced South Florida workers’ compensation attorney for an unbiased opinion. The attorneys at Friedman Rodman Frank & Estrada, P.A. understand how complex workers’ compensation statutes are and are here to help you get the care and compensation you need. To schedule a free consultation with an attorney from our office, give us a call today at (877) 448-8585.