Firefighter and First Responder Injuries
Minnesota Firefighter and First Responder Injury Attorneys
One of the most dangerous occupations in Minnesota, and the United States more generally, is firefighting. Firefighters run toward danger while the rest of us run away. Firefighters respond to emergency calls, such as fires, medical calls, natural disasters, and alarms. They are required to lift and carry people, gurneys, charged fire lines, and other heavy equipment. Firefighters are also required to respond to fire scenes in their full turnout gear, which can weigh in excess of 150 pounds. It is therefore unsurprising that firefighters sustain injuries on the job much more frequently than members of the general public.
As if the risk of physical injury weren’t enough, firefighters are also constantly exposed to gruesome and traumatic incidents, which over time may cause posttraumatic stress disorder or other mental health issues. Firefighters are also at a unique risk of developing certain types of cancer due to their exposure to carcinogens.
Common Injuries for Firefighters and First Responders:
- Gillette injuries. Firefighters are particularly susceptible to Gillette injuries because of the heavy labor they perform as a part of their everyday job duties. A Gillette injury is an injury that occurs over the course of time from minute trauma to the body. This minute trauma comes from lifting and carrying heavy objects and people; from dragging charged attack lines; from using an ax to create ventilation, attending physically demanding trainings and from performing their duties in heavy turnout gear. Frequently, firefighters develop degeneration in their neck, back, shoulders, knees and hips much more quickly than the general public. This type of injury is compensable under workers’ compensation.
- Cancer/exposure injuries. It is well-known that firefighters are exposed to a variety of harmful chemicals and carcinogens in their jobs. Minnesota workers’ compensation recognized this by adding a firefighter presumption into law. If a firefighter develops a certain type of cancer, it is presumed that the cancer was caused by his or her work as a firefighter. If you are a firefighter who develops cancer, even many years after retirement, your medical care and treatment, and even your wage loss may be covered by workers’ compensation.
- Posttraumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Firefighters respond to many traumatic events over the course of their careers, including fatal or serious injury medical calls, motor vehicle collisions and fire calls. Understandably, this takes a toll on a first responder’s mental health and may lead to PTSD. The Minnesota Legislature recognizes this and created a presumption for first responders—their PTSD is now presumptively work-related. If you are a first responder with PTSD, you are likely entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
- Lifting injuries. The National Fire Protection Association reports that as many as 50 percent of all firefighter injuries are the result of strain or overexertion. Firefighters are required to lift, carry, and push heavy objects, people and equipment as a part of their everyday job duties. In addition, firefighters and first responders cannot always use proper lifting techniques because they are many times performing these duties in uncontrolled environments, such as the cramped space of someone’s bathroom or staircase landing. Firefighter lifting injuries are both common and compensable workers’ compensation claims.
- Slip, fall, trip injuries. Many firefighters are injured during the course of a fire or medical call when they trip and fall over debris, a fire hose, clutter or on a wet surface. Firefighters must work in all kinds of weather, which means they must work in the ice and snow during Minnesota winters. This leads to many slip and fall injuries on the ice because many times the water from the fire hose will pool and freeze around the firefighters as they work. In addition, firefighters are expected to respond to emergency calls quickly, which may require firefighters to move quickly over ice-laden roads, driveways and parking lots to administer care and transport patients. Slip, trip and fall injuries can result in serious injury to firefighters and are compensable under workers’ compensation.
- Heart attacks. According to the United States Fire Administration, heart attacks is the leading cause of death for active-duty firefighters. Firefighting is both a physically and emotionally demanding job. The dangerous work, heavy turnout gear, and extreme stress can cause strain on the heart. This strain, in conjunction with a toxic work environment, can easily cause a heart attack. If you have a heart attack while working as a firefighter, or at home after a strenuous call or training, you are likely entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
The workers’ compensation system was designed to cover these types of injuries and many more; however, practically, this does not always happen. Employers and insurance companies will deny claims, hoping that you will give up and not go after the benefits that you’re entitled to. It is important that you have someone on your side who can help you navigate the process and get the benefits you’re entitled to.
Contact Attorney Joe Osterbauer After an In-the-Line-of-Duty Injury
Joe Osterbauer is an experienced workers’ compensation and PERA/MSRS disability attorney. He has handled hundreds of cases for first responders and is one of the very few Minnesota attorneys who understands the interplay between workers’ compensation and PERA/MSRS disability claims. Attorney Joe Osterbauer will ensure that you understand your rights and help you determine the best option for you and your family.
Call Joe Osterbauer for a free and confidential consultation or contact us online today for a free initial consultation.