The Minnesota Legislature recently passed a new first responder workers’ compensation law that promises to better protect those who work so hard during emergencies. Along with a 2013 law recognizing PTSD as a compensable injury, this new law hopefully will reduce the rates of benefits denial for first responders.
Back in 2013, the Legislature first recognized post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as an injury for which workers could receive workers’ compensation benefits. To qualify for benefits, you must have a diagnosis of PTSD from a doctor. Unfortunately, hard-working first responders were still having their PTSD claims denied by insurance companies after the law passed.
First responders are particularly susceptible to PTSD because they work in high-stress environments such as scenes of car crashes, fires, and emergency rooms. They also see stressful things like seriously injured people, gunfire, and even deaths. To help first responders with PTSD get benefits without facing long fights against insurance companies, the Legislature passed a new law that will be effective January 1, 2019.
The law states that first responders on active duty who are (1) diagnosed with a mental impairment, which for now includes only PTSD, and (2) had not previously been diagnosed with PTSD, receive a presumption that their PTSD is occupational disease and is due to the nature of their employment. (Minn. Stat. § 176.011, subd. 15 (effective 1/1/19).) A presumption is a legal term, here meaning that a judge will assume the PTSD is compensable and the worker can receive benefits. In many situations the law could help first responders avoid immediate benefits denials.
The employer or insurer does have the opportunity to rebut the presumption. This means that they can produce evidence to argue that the presumption should not be followed and the worker should not get benefits. For example, they could find evidence that the worker did not actually get a PTSD diagnosis, that the PTSD was not due to work activities, that the PTSD is temporary, or that the worker had a previous PTSD diagnosis. In addition, the employer or insurer could show that the PTSD is not an occupational disease because it was caused by a normal employment action like a demotion, performance review, or termination.
First responders covered by the new law include:
- Police officers
- Emergency medical technicians
- Licensed nurses employed to provide emergency medical services outside of a medical facility
- Public safety dispatchers
- Corrections officers
- Sheriffs and deputies
- Members of the Minnesota State Patrol
(Minn. Stat. § 176.011, subd. 15 (effective 1/1/19).)
Need help getting workers’ compensation for your injury? Joe Osterbauer, Esq. and the Osterbauer Law Firm stand up for injured Minnesota workers’ rights. Joe’s 27 years of workers’ compensation experience and his team’s speedy service combine to get clients the results they need. To schedule a free consultation, visit Osterbauer Law Firm online or call Joe’s office at (612) 334-3434.