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Northwest OH Legal Blog

Friday, September 23, 2016

Proposed Legislation Would Allow Workers’ Compensation Benefits for First Responders

As part of their job, first responders are often subject to traumatic experiences. Sometimes the effects can be long-lasting, and several first responders suffer from Post-Traumatic Stress Syndrome (PTSD) because of their experiences. One would think that because they experience PTSD as a result of their job duties, they would be entitled to Workers’ Compensation benefits for treatment of the condition and the lost time that results. Unfortunately, Ohio Law does not provide such compensation in most cases.

PTSD is a psychiatric condition. Under Ohio Revised Code 4123.01(C)(1), the Ohio Revised Code will only allow compensation for a psychiatric condition when “it has arisen from an injury or occupational disease sustained by that claimant or where the claimant’s psychiatric conditions have arisen from sexual conduct in which the claimant was forced by threat of physical harm to engage or participate.” In the case of PTSD, the psychologic condition must be the result of a physical workplace injury.

This creates an unfair result for workers who are diagnosed with PTSD because they were witness to a traumatic event, such as another’s injuries. For example, the Ohio Supreme Court heard the case of a dump-truck driver who was diagnosed with PTSD after witnessing the injury of another driver who collided with his truck. The Supreme Court found, based on the plain language of the statute, that a psychiatric condition based on witnessing another person’s injuries is not compensable. The physical injury must cause the psychiatric one. Armstrong v. John R. Jurgensen Co. (2013), 136 Ohio St.3d 58.

This leaves first responders, such as police officers, firefighters, and EMS workers, on their own if diagnosed with PTSD due to witnessing another’s injury. The Supreme Court acknowledged that its ruling would shut several people out from receiving benefits. But it also pointed out that the General Assembly is free to change the language of the statute.

The General Assembly is attempting to do just that. Senate Bill 5 (2015-16) would amend the Ohio Revised Code to allow Workers’ Compensation claims “[w]here the claimant is a peace officer, firefighter, or emergency medical worker and is diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder that has been received in the course of, and has arisen out of, the claimant’s employment as a peace officer, firefighter, or emergency medical worker.” This would allow first responders to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits under these circumstances. Although promising, the General Assembly is yet to take action on this legislation, leaving PTSD non-compensable in many situations.

If you have questions about this or other Workers’ Compensation matters, feel free to contact the offices of Allotta | Farley for a free consultation. 


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With offices in Toledo and Lima, OH Allotta Farley Co., L.P.A. serves clients throughout northwest OH with various legal matters. Areas of service include Allen County, Ashland County, Auglaize County, Crawford County, Defiance County, Erie County, Fulton County, Hancock County, Hardin County, Henry County, Huron County, Lucas County, Marion County, Mercer County, Morrow County, Ottawa County, Paulding County, Putnam County, Richland County, Sandusky County, Seneca County, Van Wert County, Williams County, Wood County, Wyandot County.

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