FIREFIGHTER INJURY FREQUENCY AND WORKER’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

In California, the State, Counties, Municipalities, and Cities employ Firefighters.  Firefighting, like other safety positions, are dangerous occupations which have significant risk of injury.   Firefighters are expected to and are willing to put themselves in harm’s way to save lives.  Due to their injury rates, data concerning Firefighter Work Injuries have been studied as to the nature of their work injuries and their injury rates.  A recent RAND study provides some insight into the challenges that Firefighters face.

What Are Firefighters’ Work Injury Rates Compared to Others?

Compared to other occupations, Firefighters have high injury rates.  Their rate is slightly less Police Officers.   Between 2005-1017, the rates were 200 per 1000 workers for Firefighters.  This rate is compared to 35 to 50 injuries per 1000 for all workers. Dworsky M, Seabury SA, Broten N. The Frequency and Economic Impact of Musculoskeletal Disorders for California Firefighters: Trends and Outcomes over the Past Decade. Rand Health Q. 2021;9(2):4. Published 2021 Aug 16.

What Are the Most Significant Injuries That Firefighters Sustain?

Of all types of injuries, 47 percent of all Firefighter injuries were musculoskeletal in nature.  Supra.

What Body Parts Do Firefighters Injure?

Compare to other occupations, Firefighters sustain more trunk, ie spine, and lower extremity injuries versus upper extremity injuries than other occupations.  Supra.

What Are the Causes of Injury for Firefighters?

Strains are the most common cause of injury for Firefighters.   Also, burn injuries are more common for firefighters. They represent 6 percent of their injuries.  Supra.

Do Firefighters Seek Psychiatric Treatment for Musculoskeletal Disorder Injuries?

It was found that there was no difference between psychiatric issues for firefighter versus workers in similar occupations.  Supra.

The caveat to this issue is whether Firefighters use their own health insurance to address psychiatric issues rather than workers’ compensation.  Further, there is also the stigma problem.  Firefighters may not want it known to Management and co-workers that they have mental health issues.

What If I Need Legal Advice?

If you would like a free consultation concerning any workers’ compensation case, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 28 years. Contact us today for more information.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION IN THE NEWS #9, A STRESSFUL SCENE AT AN ITALIAN RESTAURANT

In New York, a controversial scene that happened at Carmine’s Restaurant. It was not about a bottle of red, a bottle white, or a bottle of rose, it was in part as a result of COVID-19 restaurant limitations.  As a result, an altercation ensued in which a two month employee was assaulted by customers.  It is reported that criminal charges were filed against the individuals who attacked her.  The reporting does not indicate whether the hostess sustained any physical injuries.   It is reported that she has not returned to work since the incident.

The restaurant spokesperson stated “[t]hree women brutally attacked our hosts without provocation, got arrested and charged for their misconduct, and then, over the last several days, had their lawyer falsely and grossly misrepresent their acts of wanton violence in a cynical attempt to try to excuse the inexcusable,” Carmine’s owner Jeffrey Bank said in a statement, according to WABC.” Foxnews.com

The owner also said “[m]y team members work too hard to serve our guests, work too hard to comply with New York’s vaccination requirements, and still suffer too much from the attack for me to allow these false statements to stand,” Bank said in his statement.” Foxnews.com

Does the Hostess Have a Valid Workers’ Compensation Injury?

From viewing the incident online, it is unclear as to whether the Hostess sustained a physical injury.  A physical injury could be a musculoskeletal injury or some form of cut or abrasion.  Besides a physical injury, she may have sustained an emotional or stress injury as a result of the incident.

Is Her Short Employment a Workers’ Compensation Issue?

Yes. In California, to file for a stress claim, a worker must have worked for a period of 6 months.  The six months is not required to be continuous. There is a sudden and extraordinary employment condition.  This is per Labor Code Section 3208(d).

The question is whether the customer altercation would constitute a sudden and extraordinary employment condition. This would be considered a triable issue for which a Workers’ Compensation Judge can make a determination.

Can Evidence Be Important In This Matter?

In this case, the Employer made statements as to the extraordinary nature of the events that occurred.  These comments would be useful evidence to prove that the incident was a sudden and extraordinary employment condition.  Likewise, the fact that arrests were made of the patrons would be an important fact.

What Would the Hostess Receive If Her Claim Was Accepted?

If the Hostess’ claim was pursued and accepted in California, she would be entitled to treatment, total disability payments, permanent disability payments, and possibly a job displacement voucher. The entitlement to these benefits is dependent on the medical provider’s opinions.

What If I Need Legal Advice?

If you would like a free consultation concerning any workers’ compensation case, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 28 years. Contact us today for more information.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION IN THE NEWS #8: CAN A FIRE CAPTAIN FINGER LIABILITY ON A PROPERTY OWNER FOR A WORK INJURY?

In Los Angeles,  a horrific property fire happened at a Vape Shop which included an explosion. As a result, a number of firefighters sustained injuries trying to put out the fire.  A Fire Captain sustained serious injuries which included the loss of fingers.

It was reported that he is now suing the property owner for negligence.   The allegations of negligence concerned the owner’s storage of both nitrous oxide and butane containers in excess.  Dailymail.com

Was the Fire Captain’s Injuries a Workers’ Compensation Injury?

Yes.  The Fire Captain was in the course and scope of his duties when putting out the fire.  Therefore, he is entitled to pursue a workers’ compensation case.

If the Fire Captain Filed the Civil Suit Against the Property Owner, Can He Still File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

Yes.  Many Work Injuries are caused by Third Parties. A Third Party is someone other than the Employer.   Based upon the alleged facts,  the Fire Captain could pursue both a workers’ compensation claim and a civil lawsuit. He did not have to choose between one or the other.

Can an Injured Worker Collect Separately From Both a Workers’ Compensation and a Civil Claim?

Not necessarily.  Many times, the Insurance Company for the Workers’ Compensation will join in the Civil Lawsuit.  This is called subrogation.  They, like the Injured Worker, are entitled to collect a recovery from Third Party that was liable for the work injury.  The division of the proceeds from a Civil Action would be dependent on the facts. For example, if the Workers’ Compensation Insurance paid out a lot of money in medical care, their lien on the Third Party case may be quite substantial.  They would command a considerable amount.

Is There Any Special Benefits a Fire Captain Can Receive from This Work Injury?

Yes.  There are two special benefits.   First, the Fire Captain is entitled to salary continuation for up to one year pursuant to Labor Code Section 4850.  Second, the Fire Captain, due to finger amputations would be entitled 240 weeks of TTD benefits as opposed to the 104 week limitation.  This is per LC 4656.

Why Would the Fire Captain File a Civil Claim?

A Civil Claim provides for different types of damages.  For example, wage loss would be a factor.  In light of the Fire Captain’s loss of fingers, he may have substantial wage loss as his firefighting career may be over.

What If I Need Legal Advice?

If you would like a free consultation concerning any workers’ compensation case, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 28 years. Contact us today for more information.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION IN THE NEWS #7:  WHEN LIFE SAVERS LOSE THEIR LIVES

A California Firefighter recently died when battling the State’s second largest wildfire, the Dixie Fire.

While the individual who died was not identified, it would appear that he worked for CALFIRE and was an Assistant Fire Engine Operator with the Lassen National Forest.   It was reported that he suffered from a previous illness. Foxnews.com

What Type of Claim Can Be Filed When A Worker Dies?

In the event of a death, the Injured Worker’s dependents may pursue death benefits.  Dependency can vary depending upon a variety of factors.   These factors include the amount of support provided, the dependent’s age and the dependent’s marital status.

If Someone Had a Pre-Existing Medical Condition and Dies On the Job, Would That Impact a Death Claim?

Possibly. If work had a causative role in the death, then death benefits would be indicated.  If work had absolutely no causative role, then a death claim may not be viable.  The causation decision is made per medical opinion and legal statutes.  For example, for certain firefighters, a heart presumption applies.  This presumption can impact the medical provider’s opinion on causation.

For Firefighters, Are There Special Benefits in the Event of Death Claims?

For certain Safety Members, there are special benefits that apply.  For certain dependents, they may be eligible for a special death benefits retirement through CALPERS. In that circumstance, a dependent will have to choose a special death benefit pension versus workers’ compensation death claim.   Other dependents may have to pursue death benefits via the workers’ compensation appeals board. See Jones v. CDCR Kern Valley State Prison, 2014 Cal. Wrk. Comp. P.D. LEXIS 461

Are Burial Expenses Provided?

Yes. Workers’ compensation death cases provide for burial expenses.   The current amount of the expenses is $10,000.00.

What If I Need Legal Advice?

If you would like a free consultation concerning any workers’ compensation case, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 28 years. Contact us today for more information.

WORKERS’ COMPENSATION IN THE NEWS #6, THE BOSS WHO WAS PHILLY CHEESESTEAK KNIFED

In the City of Brotherly Love, a Philadelphia Cheesesteak Shop Owner was stabbed in the neck by an employee.  The news report indicated that the employee lunged “at his boss from behind and thrusting a 10-inch knife into his neck.”  It was also reported that the store owner’s son was present “his son grabbed two knives and tried to ward off the employee, the footage shows. nypost.com

After the attack, the store owner said, his son told him: “Dad, you have a knife in your neck … Don’t pull it out.”

In California, this incident may be considered as a work injury entitling either the owner or the son benefits.  There are several questions that need to be addressed to make a determination.

Can an Employer File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

The answer is “yes” and “no.”  In California, it is possible that a Business Owner can be covered under workers’ compensation.  Generally, if the company is a corporation and the owner is an employee of the corporation, they may be able to be covered as an employee.  This must be arranged within the policy’s terms.    If so, just like their fellow employees, an employer can file a work injury claim.

Thus, if covered, in the fact pattern reported above, the owner could file a claim for both his physical injury and possibly for a mental injury.

Can The Owner’s Son File a Workers’ Compensation Claim?

Yes.  If his son was a company employee,  he could file a claim. In California, if the son suffered emotional distress over witnessing the violent event,  it is possible that he could pursue a psychiatric workers’ injury claim.

It should be noted California Workers’ Compensation Law treats Psychiatric Injuries caused by Violent Events differently from other Psychiatric Injuries. If a Psychiatric Injury is caused by a Violent Event, the causation threshold for proving an injury is lowered. This means that it is easier to qualify to attain it.. For Violent Events, the causation standard is lowered to a substantial cause. This means at least 35 to 40 percent. See Labor Code Section 3208.3

Beyond Workers’ Compensation, Are There Any Other Benefits That Either The Owner or Son Could Collect? 

Even if the Owner or the Son are not considered an Employees, there is a special Victims Compensation Board Program in California.  The Victim Compensation and Government Claims Board administers the California Victim Compensation Program (CalVCP.) The program provides forms of compensation for victims of crime. The crimes, which may eligible for the program, can include domestic violence, child abuse, assault, sexual assault, elder abuse, molestation, homicide, robbery, hate crimes, drunk driving, vehicular manslaughter, human trafficking, stalking and online harassment.

To be eligible for compensation, a person must be a victim of a qualifying crime involving physical injury, threat of physical injury or death. For certain crimes, an emotional injury alone is enough to qualify. Certain family members and loved ones who suffer an economic loss from an injury to, or death of, a victim of a crime may also be eligible for compensation.

What If I Need Legal Advice?

If you would like a free consultation concerning any workers’ compensation case, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. They have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their worker’s compensation cases for 28 years. Contact us today for more information.

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