First responders such as EMTs, firefighters and public safety officers face danger every day when they report to work, and they often suffer injuries as a result. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals in the health care, police protection and fire protection fields suffer the most nonfatal occupational injuries and illnesses by far, with more than 552,000 instances of non-fatal injuries in health care and social assistance in 2016 alone.
It's important for first responders and public safety officers to know exactly what workers' compensation benefits are available to them.
What additional benefits are available to first responders and public safety officers?
In Maryland, first responders and public safety officers are eligible for workers' compensation benefits that are not necessarily available to other workers. The additional benefits may include:
A higher percentage of wage replacement: Generally, with workers' compensation, most employees may receive two-thirds of the average weekly wage as defined by law. However, if you are a first responder or public safety officer, your wage compensation benefits are calculated differently, resulting in a higher rate of compensation and a higher amount of compensation overall.
Compensation for heart disease and high blood pressure: It can be difficult to prove that a condition like heart disease or high blood pressure is job-related, but with first responders and public safety officers, the law assumes that your stressful work caused these conditions.
Benefits for work-related cancer: Usually, for workers who are not first responders, workers' comp benefits for cancer are often quite limited. First responders receive a unique level of help through cancer-related benefits.
These increased benefits can be a huge help, but you need to go carefully through the application process to get them.
How to get your benefits
No one, including first responders and public safety officers, will receive their benefits automatically. Every person must prove the connection between their injury or illness and their work, and you must request your benefits based on multiple factors, including your wages and your specific condition.
If you are an injured first responder, it's important to have an experienced workers' compensation attorney on your side to make sure your wages have been calculated correctly, and that medical evidence of your injury is properly recorded and presented for the purposes of your claim. All of this is very important for you to receive all the compensation and benefits to which you are entitled.