Firefighters & Workers' Compensation: When the Bravest Among Us Are Injured on the Job
Contributed by The Babcock Law Firm
With the millions of acres of land and thousands of buildings burned in California alone last year, it leaves many firefighters and emergency responders wondering what happens if they get injured on the job.
One small spark can ignite an entire forest, which is why firefighting is one of the most difficult and heroic jobs out there. Almost daily, firefighters put their lives on the line to save others as well as land, houses, buildings, and the list goes on.
Top Injuries Firefighters Sustain While on the Job
Injuries are fairly common because of the risks involved with the job. The top five injuries firefighters sustain are:
- Burns -- While the most obvious, burns are also one of the most common. Even with all of the protective gear firefighters wear, it can fall short when they’re in the middle of high heat and flames. Burns can also be some of the worst injuries because, depending on the severity, a firefighter may require skin grafts and/or several months off work for recovery.
- Broken bones -- Broken bones can happen has a result of something falling as a firefighter is going through a burning building, or even if they walk on an area of the floor that’s not sturdy enough and they fall through.
- Lacerations -- Glass shattering from pressure or excessive heat can cause deep cuts or lacerations, especially if a firefighter ends up having to break through a window to get himself and/or a victim out.
- Chemical exposure -- Various chemicals in homes and buildings can explode or leak as a fire burns, so if a proper mask and protection isn’t worn, firefighters can suffer from toxic chemical exposure (both internally and externally on their skin).
- Blunt force trauma -- As a fire burns wood and other materials in a home or building, things begin to fall and collapse. Firefighters can often get injured by large wood beams and other falling objects as they try to rescue victims inside.
Some other common injuries are overexertion, slip and falls, and injuries involving extreme weather.
Can Firefighters Get Workers’ Comp for Injuries?
There are certain states that have very clear and complete coverage for firefighters that get injured while on duty. California, for example, covers all hospital bills, treatment or surgeries needed if a firefighter sustains certain injuries. It also has disability and death benefits available.
Firefighters in several other states are not so lucky. Numerous cases in Texas have been denied workers’ compensation -- most of which were claims that firefighters got cancer as a result of exposure to carcinogens. Similarly, firefighters in Georgia have been denied help for cancer treatment as well. CBS46 News explains:
Since it's often impossible for medical experts to determine whether a fire or hazardous material situation caused a patient's cancer, firefighters are denied workers' compensation benefits or never apply for them.
There are many states (about 33) that have laws allowing for firefighters to receive help with medical costs and treatment if they do contract any type of cancer because of the presumption that most do get it as a result of their job.
Consider Hiring a Workers’ Compensation Attorney
Workers’ compensation claims can be really difficult and complex, so they have to be navigated carefully. Often, firefighters choose not to file claims for fear of being sued by their employer or having to deal with a major battle while trying to recover.
If you’ve been injured on the job, you should consider hiring an experienced work injury attorney to help you file your claim and get the compensation you need for medical costs and recovery.