Can First Responders Collect Workers’ Compensation in Tennessee?
First responders risk their lives each and every day, and when they are injured it can be difficult to determine who should pay for their injuries. Firefighters, emergency medical technicians, and police officers are aware that their jobs are dangerous, but this does not mean they should be financially burdened when they are hurt on the job for care such as:
- Emergency room visits
- Follow up appointments
- Use of assistive devices
While going through a health insurance provider is a good way to establish a paper trail and have medical bills paid on time, this does not exempt negligent parties from being held liable for their actions. If you are a first responder, you may need to enlist the help of a Chattanooga workers’ compensation attorney to protect your rights and get the benefits you are entitled to.
What is your job class status?
Whether or not you are entitled to file for workers’ compensation may depend on your job status is. This can be an exhaustive process with a lot of red tape, paperwork, denials, appeals, and in some cases hearings. When a first responder is on-duty they are working within their capacity and should be covered if an accident does occur.
If you are classified as an employee of a company, you are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. It is important to note that not all companies carry workers’ compensation insurance. However, due to the fact that first responders serve the public, these companies cannot be without workers’ compensation insurance.
If you are working as an independent contractor you may not be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits. However, there are cases where an employee is misclassified as an independent contractor when in fact they are working under the capacity of an employee. If this is the case you will want to speak to a Chattanooga workers’ compensation attorney.
In most cases, volunteers are not covered under workers’ compensation, but there are exceptions. Some organizations may have the option of covering volunteers. This is aimed at volunteer firefighters but can also cover other volunteer positions within the realm of first responders.
Catastrophic injuries to first responders in Tennessee
First responders are prone to catastrophic injuries based solely on the services they provide. As first responders, they willingly put themselves on the line to protect others. When they are injured on the job, their injuries can often change the entire course of their lives. Among the most severe injuries are:
- Organ damage. Your organs are essential to your quality of life and if your heart, kidney, or eyes are hurt, life can be nearly impossible. These injuries have lifelong consequences and you may be unable to work or perform basic tasks. In many cases, a loved one will pass away as a result of these types of injuries.
- Smoke inhalation. Firefighters, in particular, are at risk for suffering smoke inhalation injuries. Their job often entails them running into burning buildings that are encompassed in fire and smoke. If equipment fails, smoke can get into the lungs of firefighters and cause an injury.
- Herniated discs. While one of the most common injuries, it can also be a catastrophic one. First responders are often carrying a range of equipment that is very heavy. They may also be required to carry people to safety. In either case, this puts a strain on your back or neck which can lead to a herniated disc. You will be unable to perform some of the same tasks as you did before and may even require surgery.
- Spinal trauma. The spine is very sensitive and an injury can leave you paralyzed or worse. Spinal cord trauma can often lead to permanent loss of sensation, strength, and function. This condition cannot be cured but there are treatment options to make you as comfortable as possible. You may never be able to be a first responder again. You will need a Chattanooga workers’ compensation attorney to protect your rights and your future.
- Head trauma. Head trauma affects the skull, brain, and scalp. Head injuries can be either closed or open. If it is an open trauma, this can be significantly worse and can lead to permanent brain damage. You can experience head trauma from a number of incidents on the job, from bumping your head when entering a home or as a result of an act of violence.
- Vehicle crash injuries. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports around 6,500 accidents involving ambulances in a single year, with 35% resulting in injuries. Most of these accidents happen during the emergency use of the vehicle. Injuries can be fatal and include many of the injuries we have already discussed.
How do you file a claim as a first responder?
To file a successful claim and obtain compensation it is essential that you follow the procedure outlined in the workplace handbook. You will need to immediately document the injury and ensure your claim is submitted correctly. While this may sound simple enough, it is not, and you may need the help of a Chattanooga workers’ compensation attorney.
Not only is knowing how to file a claim important but you should be informed on what benefits you can obtain from filing a claim. Injured workers can receive the following benefits in a workers compensation claims:
- Medical benefits
- Temporary disability benefits
- Permanent disability benefits
- Death benefits
It is important to report your injury to your supervisors immediately. Tennessee has strict deadlines for filing a workers compensation claim, often only 15 calendar days from the date of the accidents. This means you will need to contact a Chattanooga workers’ compensation attorney as soon as you are injured.
If you are a first responder or a loved one of a first responder that has been injured on the job, you need a dedicated Chattanooga workers’ compensation attorney on your side. Call the office of Wagner & Wagner at 423-756-7923, or complete our contact form to schedule a consultation in Cleveland, Chattanooga, or North Georgia.
Licensed for 34 years, Michael Augustine Wagner is a Personal Injury and Motor Vehicle Accidents lawyer in Chattanooga Tennessee. Learn More