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Workers' comp expands to include mental health for first responders

Police officers, municipal constables, parole officers, and firefighters occupy a unique role in our society and are often called upon to respond to dangerous situations. In the course of their employment they can be exposed to traumatic events, which most other professions are not. In recent years a new awareness has arisen regarding these issues, particularly after mass shooting tragedies such as at Sandy Hook.

first responders ct.jpgIn response to these issues the State of Connecticut passed Public Act 19-17, An Act Concerning Workers' Compensation Benefits for Certain Mental or Emotional Impairments, Mental Health Care for Police Officers and Wellness Training for Police Officers, Parole Officers and Firefighters. This act became effective on July 1, 2019, and provides, inter alia, for police officers, municipal constables, parole officers, and firefighters to receive certain workers' compensation benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) caused by certain "qualifying events" experienced within the course of their duties, such as:

(A) Views a deceased minor;

(B) Witnesses the death of a person or an incident involving the death of a person;

(C) Witnesses an injury to a person who subsequently dies before or upon admission at a hospital as a result of the injury and not as a result of any other intervening cause;

(D) Has physical contact with and treats an injured person who subsequently dies before or upon admission at a hospital as a result of the injury and not as a result of any other intervening cause;

(E) Carries an injured person who subsequently dies before or upon admission at a hospital as a result of the injury and not as a result of any other intervening cause; or

(F) Witnesses a traumatic physical injury that results in the loss of a vital body part or a vital body function that results in permanent disfigurement of the victim.

Public Act 19-17, Sec. 2(a)(7)

This act significantly expands the number of mental health injuries covered by workers' compensation, as previously mental health injuries generally had to be connected to a physical injury. Prior to this Act, General Statutes §31-294h addressed treatment for mental or emotional impairments arising out a police officer's use of deadly force or being subjected to deadly force, as well as firefighters who witness the death of another firefighter. Yet, as noted above, this act is limited to certain specific events, as well as places limitations on the duration and types of benefits received. Nevertheless, the act does attempt to address some of the psychological repercussions police, municipal constables, parole officer, and firefighters face as a result of their profession.

There are other aspects of Public Act 19-17, as well as the Workers Compensation Act in general, that can have an impact on a possible claim for workers' compensation benefits, and the attorneys at Brown, Paindiris & Scott, LLP, can help you navigate the system. If you or someone you know has suffered an injury at work, contact our office today for a free consultation.

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