Paramedics play a crucial role in our communities, providing emergency medical care when we need it most. While they’re dedicated to saving lives and ensuring our well-being, they often face occupational hazards themselves that put their own health at risk.
Occupational Health & Safety reported that between eight and nine out of every 100 paramedics are treated in hospitals for work-related injuries each year. To put that into perspective, only about two out of every 100 workers are treated for work-related injuries each year in other fields. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were nearly 17,000 paramedics who sustained an injury on the job and were treated in a hospital in 2020.
Paramedics can sustain injuries on the job for a variety of reasons, and the potential for developing chronic health issues in their line of work is real. Thankfully, workers’ compensation can step in and help relieve some of the burden along with the guidance of an experienced attorney.
Are both volunteer and paid paramedics eligible for workers’ compensation?
Workers’ compensation eligibility for paramedics in Chattanooga is closely tied to their employment status. Paid paramedics, who form a significant portion of the workforce, typically have straightforward eligibility for these benefits. However, the situation may differ for volunteers who generously contribute their time and skills to emergency services.
“volunteer firefighter” means any member or personnel of a fire department, volunteer fire department, rescue squad or volunteer rescue squad, including, but not limited to, a junior member, a board member or an auxiliary member of the department or squad.
An entity offering workers’ compensation insurance shall offer coverage for members of rescue squads on similar terms and conditions as coverage available to full-time paid firefighters or emergency medical services personnel.
Volunteers may be entitled to all benefits – medical, wage replacement and indemnity – depending on the policy.
Compensation for Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
In Spring of 2023, the Tennessee General Assembly “approved a workers’ compensation presumption that post-traumatic stress disorder is work-related for firefighters.” Governor Lee signed it, and it goes into effect on January 1, 2024. Though the new law is specifically designed for firefighters, volunteer paramedics within a fire department who fulfill the requirements of the law should be entitled to this additional compensation as well.
Common injuries sustained by paramedics
Unfortunately, for paramedics and other emergency service workers, being dedicated to saving lives often means risking your own. While not all of their work-related injuries are dire, even some of the most seemingly simple injuries can have long-lasting effects. Some of the most common paramedic injuries are:
- Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Responding to traumatic events and witnessing distressing scenes can lead to a psychological injury that can have a lasting impact on paramedics’ mental health.
- Anxiety and depression. The high-stress environment can take an emotional toll on them.
- Strains and sprains. Paramedics frequently engage in physically demanding tasks such as lifting and moving patients.
- Fractures and dislocations. The nature of their work exposes them to accidents and falls.
- Cuts, bruises, and burns. Sharp objects and hazardous scenes during emergencies pose risks.
- Bloodborne pathogens. Paramedics risk exposure to bloodborne diseases like HIV and hepatitis.
- Respiratory infections. Close contact with respiratory patients increases the risk of contracting infections.
- Occupational diseases. Prolonged exposure to hazardous materials and environmental toxins can lead to chronic health conditions, particularly respiratory problems, affecting long-term health.
- Repetitive stress injuries. Repetitive tasks like medication administration or CPR can cause conditions like carpal tunnel syndrome, leading to discomfort and pain.
Benefits that Chattanooga paramedics can seek
First responder employees – like paramedics – who sustain work-related injuries or illnesses are entitled to various workers’ compensation benefits designed to provide essential support during challenging times. Those benefits may include:
Paramedics can rely on workers’ compensation to cover crucial medical expenses. This includes hospitalization, medications, and necessary treatments to facilitate their recovery. Ensuring access to prompt medical care is an important aspect of this benefit, helping paramedics get back on their feet as soon as possible.
Temporary total disability (TTD) benefits
In the unfortunate event that paramedics are temporarily unable to work due to their injuries, TTD benefits provide financial assistance. These benefits aim to compensate for the wages lost during their recovery period. By alleviating financial burdens, TTD benefits enable paramedics to focus on their healing without the added stress of income loss.
Permanent partial disability (PPD) benefits
When injuries result in permanent impairments, PPD benefits come into play. These benefits provide compensation to those who experience lasting limitations due to their workplace injuries. Recognizing the long-term impact of such injuries, PPD benefits provide financial support that reflects the nature and extent of the impairment.
If you have suffered a job-related injury while working as a paramedic in Chattanooga, reach out to Wagner & Wagner Attorneys at Law. Our experienced lawyers are here to support you throughout the entire process to ensure you receive the compensation you deserve. Contact our office or fill out our contact form to schedule your free case review today. Proudly serving Cleveland, Chattanooga, North Georgia, and the surrounding areas.
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