In South Carolina alone, there are over 11,000 law enforcement officers representing 272 state law enforcement agencies. Those who serve as police officers, firefighters and medical personnel are often willing to put themselves into incredibly dangerous situations to protect and serve others. These first responders, however, may not receive all the compensation they deserve when they are injured on the job, or if they suffer from lasting mental and emotional impacts from their work.
Workers’ Compensation for Mental Stress
Firefighters, medics, and law enforcement officers see a much higher amount of traumatic situations than the average desk worker, including serious injuries, burns, or death. There have even been reports of firefighters and police officers taking their own lives due to on-the-job stress or stress from PTSD-related causes.
Psychiatric injuries can include PTSD, insomnia, various forms of anxiety and depression as well as serious phobias. The impact of these injuries or disorders may be severe and could prevent an individual from working. Yet currently, in South Carolina, those who thrust themselves into emergency situations are ineligible for workers’ compensation benefits related to mental stress. While the neighboring state of Georgia allows workers’ compensation claims for mental stress, South Carolina currently does not.
South Carolina Senate Bill Could Allow Workers’ Compensation for Mental Stress
A bill has been introduced to provide for mental stress in workers’ compensation plans for first responders. This bill would include certain forms of mental stress like PTSD as a compensable injury. The bill further removes a designation that an experience causing PTSD needs to be extraordinary or unusual, recognizing that traumatic experiences are subjective.
Those who are against the bill have two primary objections. The first is a concern over a potential raise in false claims for workers’ compensation. Mental stress injuries are harder to prove with tangible evidence, so some lawmakers are worried that individuals may attempt to cheat the system. The other concern is that there may be a sharp increase in the cost of workers’ compensation claims. One estimate from the Revenue and Fiscal Affairs office projects an increase of $1.7 million. Unfortunately, for first time responders suffering from mental injuries, the South Carolina Legislature completed its current legislative session, so this bill will have to be introduced at a later time.
Have you been injured at work?
If you or a loved one is a South Carolina first responder who has been injured at work, it is important that you act quickly to protect your rights. Many workers’ compensation claims have short deadlines so it is critical that you consult an experienced attorney to help with your case. At Surasky Law, we have the workers’ compensation knowledge that can help you get your life back on track. Contact us today for a free consultation on your case.