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 #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.

FIREFIGHTERS AND THEIR MOST REPORTED CAUSE OF INJURY: OVEREXERTION, WORK INJURIES FOR SAFETY OFFICERS, AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Firefighters play a vital role in society.  Each Firefighter represents a significant investment by a community.  Therefore, there is significant study into how and why Firefighters are injured.  Researchers use the term overexertion to describe mechanisms of injury.

This type of research is important for Firefighters.  When a Firefighter is injured and the mechanism of injury is of a certain nature, there will be a certain reaction from Management and Risk Management.   If Management and Risk Management is aware that a particular type of injury is common, it may be viewed with less scrutiny. Likewise, Firefighters claiming injury that are unique in nature may be subject to greater scrutiny.

This article will discuss overexertion, the results of a recent study and what Firefighter should be concerned about concerning the results of the study.

What Is Overexertion?

The Study noted that   “according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the term “overexertion” is sometimes used synonymously or interchangeably with “bodily reaction” Strains can be defined as injury to the muscle or musculotendinous joint, and sprains are an injury to the ligament.” Firefighter Overexertion: A Continuing Problem Found in an Analysis of Non-Fatal Injury Among Career Firefighters Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 7906; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17217906 Published: 28 October 2020

Note: essentially, overexertion injuries are orthopedics injuries. For example, back injuries which are usually lumbar sprains/strains, or cervical sprains/strains.   It can include injuries to both the upper and lower extremities such as shoulder sprains/strains and knee sprains/strains.

Why Is Overexertion Injuries Significant With Respect to Workers’ Compensation?

Per the Study, Overexertion.. is the leading cause of non-fatal injury across ten industry categories and accounts for 35% of non-fatal injuries and illnesses resulting in days away from work per year.” .” Firefighter Overexertion: A Continuing Problem Found in an Analysis of Non-Fatal Injury Among Career Firefighters Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 7906; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17217906 Published: 28 October 2020

Work Injuries can be costly to both private and government positions.  The study noted that the “resultant sprain and strain injuries cost U.S. businesses and organizations an estimated USD 13.8 billion a year in direct costs, which include medical and lost-wage payments.” .” Firefighter Overexertion: A Continuing Problem Found in an Analysis of Non-Fatal Injury Among Career Firefighters Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 7906; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17217906 Published: 28 October 2020

Note: with respect to any industry, including Fire Departments, there is a need to contain risk management costs by having injury reduction.

What Did the Overexertion Study Tells Us About Firefighter Injuries?

The study found that despite the fact that the occupation deals with fire and its destructive properties to a human body, it is the overexertion which is the greatest source of injury to for firefighting personnel. .” Firefighter Overexertion: A Continuing Problem Found in an Analysis of Non-Fatal Injury Among Career Firefighters Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 7906; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17217906 Published: 28 October 2020

Note: with respect to this study, it important to note that the Departments appear to do an excellent job with respect to safety equipment to prevent fire and burn-related injuries.   Thus, orthopedic injuries then emerge as the most common source of injury.

Another study provided additional data of interest. “Leading injury events were fires and explosions (36%) and overexertion and bodily reactions (20%). A majority (38%) of injuries occurred during firefighting activities, 7% occurred during training, and 7% occurred during patient care. Sprains and strains accounted for the largest proportion of injuries in all three of these activities: 28% firefighting activities, 32% training, and 36% patient care. Nonfatal Injuries to Firefighters Treating in U.S. Emergency Departments, 2003-2014, Suzanne M. Marsch, MPA, Melody Gwilliam MPH Srinivas Konda MPH Hope M.Tiesman PhD Rita Fahy Phd, American Journal of Preventative Medicine Volume 55, Issue 3, September 2018, P. 353-360.

Does Age Have an Impact with Respect to What Injuries Firefighters Have?

Yes.  The study found that younger firefighters have different injuries than older firefighters.  The study found that  “FF personnel aged less than 39 experienced higher levels of injury as a result of fires and explosions, transportation incidents, and contact with objects and equipment, relative to those aged 40 and above. Those aged 40 and above experienced falls, slips and trips, as well as overexertion and bodily reactions at a higher prevalence than their younger counterparts.” .” Firefighter Overexertion: A Continuing Problem Found in an Analysis of Non-Fatal Injury Among Career Firefighters Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 7906; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17217906 Published: 28 October 2020

What will Department Do about This?

The study recommended a focus on fitness and ergonomics.  Firefighter Overexertion: A Continuing Problem Found in an Analysis of Non-Fatal Injury Among Career Firefighters Int. J. Environ. Res. Public Health 2020, 17(21), 7906; https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17217906 Published: 28 October 2020.

Note: the challenges to this issue is that a significant amount of firefighting activity is performed in conditions in which ergonomics may not be able to be practiced.  Thus, this is a significant challenge.  Also, in the other study, overexertion injuries appear to be spread about evenly across the many task performed.  Therefore, an overall approach may be taken by Departments as opposed to any particular job task.

What if I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

WORKPLACE VIOLENCE AND WORKERS’ COMPENSATION: WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Workplace Violence is a serious concern in California.  Some of the most infamous workplace violence episodes have occurred in California.  This includes the San Ysidro McDonalds shootings, the Piper Tech shootings, and the San Bernardino terrorist shootings.

Not all workplace violence involves fatalities. There are many workplace violence events of a non-fatal variety.   These violence acts are significant in the workers’ compensation area because workers who are either injured in the incident or suffer emotional injury as a result of witnessing the events.  These effected workers are entitled to seek medical treatment and disability benefits through the workers’ compensation system.

There was a recent study of interest which provides insight to workers with respect to these incidents.

This article will discuss non-fatal workplace violence, how it interacts with the workers’ compensation system and the rights that an Injured Worker has relating to those incidents.

What Were the Non-Fatal Workplace Violence Studied?

In a recent study, non-fatal violence in the workplace was investigated.   In the study, the types of crime included rape/sexual assault (including attempted rape, sexual attack with serious/minor assault, sexual assault without injury, unwanted sexual contact without force, and verbal threat of rape/sexual assault); robbery (including attempted robbery); aggravated assault (attack or attempted attack with a weapon, regardless of whether or not an injury occurred, and attack without a weapon when serious injury resulted, and including aggravated assault with injury, attempted aggravated assault with weapon, and threatened assault with weapon); simple assault (attack without a weapon resulting in no or minor injury, and including simple assault with injury and assault without weapon without injury); and verbal threat of assault.” Siegel, M. Johnson, CY, Lawson CC, Ridenour M Hartley D. Nonfatal Violent Workplace Crime Characteristics and Rates by Occupation- United States, 2007-2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69: 324-328.

What Are the Frequency Rates of the Different Forms of Violence?

The most frequently reported type of crime was threat of assault (44%), followed by simple assault (37%), aggravated assault (13%), rape/sexual assault (3%), and robbery (3%). Siegel, M. Johnson, CY, Lawson CC, Ridenour M Hartley D. Nonfatal Violent Workplace Crime Characteristics and Rates by Occupation- United States, 2007-2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020;69: 324-328.

Note: workplace violence does not necessary translate into matters of physical harm to workers. Threats of assault can cause psychological injury or give rise to physiological stress responses such as a heart attack. Likewise, witnessing these various events might give rise to such problems as well.

Are the Violence Rates Different Between Occupations?

Yes. In the study, “[d]uring 2007–2010, occupations with the highest rates of violent workplace crimes were Protective services (e.g., first responders) (101 crimes per 1,000 workers); Community and social services (19); Healthcare practitioners and technicians (17), Healthcare support occupations (17); Education, training, and library occupations (eight); and Transportation and material moving occupations (seven.)” Siegel, M. Johnson, CY, Lawson CC, Ridenour M Hartley D. Nonfatal Violent Workplace Crime Characteristics and Rates by Occupation- United States, 2007-2015. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2020; 69:324-328.

Note: It is interesting to note which areas of the workforce in which the acts occur.  It appears that the key factor is the significant contact that workers have with the public.

Are All Workplace Violence Episodes a Valid Work Injury?

No.  There are several issues that can come up.  First, there is the initial aggressor rule.  Second, if the alleged criminal has a relationship to the victim, there may be some issue of controversy as to whether it was a workplace event versus an event that happened at the workplace.  Legal analysis would be recommended in those circumstances.

Is there a Difference Physical Injuries versus Psychological Injuries?

Yes. Psychological Injuries have thresholds that must be met in order to prevail.

The Labor Code Section 3208.3 provides lower burdens for violent acts.  It is noted in the section that “in the case of employees whose injuries resulted from being a victim of a violent act or from direct exposure to a significant violent act, the employee shall be required to demonstrate by a preponderance of the evidence that actual events of employment were a substantial cause of the injury.”  Further, ““substantial cause” means at least 35 to 40 percent of the causation from all sources combined.”

Further, there are other sections that may assist on a psychiatric claim.  They, however, require a factual analysis. Therefore, they may be relevant but will not be discussed within this article.

Additionally, for certain safety and law enforcement officers, there is a post-traumatic stress disorder presumption.  Click here for an article discussing it.

Are There Any Other Sources of Benefits?

Yes. The State of California has a Victims of Crime Program which can also provide benefits in some circumstances.  Click here for an article discussing it.

What if I Need Advice?

If you would like a free consultation regarding workers’ compensation, please contact the Law Offices of Edward J. Singer, a Professional Law Corporation. We have been helping people in Central and Southern California deal with their workers’ compensation cases for 27 years. Contact us today for more information.

 

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