While claims for workers’ compensation benefits tend to center on physical injuries, it is not uncommon for emotional injuries to form the basis of such claims. The story of a firefighter who witnessed his friend’s death in a fire exemplifies this notion.
The firefighter responded to a distress call in March 2010. He was in charge of the firefighting operation and one of his subordinates (a friend of his) entered the building. After seeing a flash, other firefighters dragged his friend from the building. The man later died from his injuries.
After the incident, the firefighter was diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and was treated by a therapist. More than a year after the incident, he was still suffering from symptoms and petitioned for workers’ compensation benefits. Unfortunately, a workers’ comp arbitrator ruled against him; ruling that he essentially had not suffered a compensable injury given that he had returned to work.
The workers’ compensation board affirmed the decision. Also, a trial court judge who reviewed the case ruled against the firefighter. However, an appellate court panel overturned the trial court decision. The panel found that the firefighter was still suffering the psychological effects of an injury stemming from a single, traumatic event. Further, the panel ruled that the testimony from the firefighter’s psychologists and therapists were credible, and that was unable to function in his duties.
Overall, the firefighter endured a four-year legal battle before finally receiving benefits. However, the story exemplifies the need for experienced legal counsel when seeking benefits to compensate for non-traditional (and nonphysical) injuries.