Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder Among Heroes: First Responders
This Ricci Law Firm post is the second in a series to address the high number of North Carolina heroes diagnosed every year with PTSD – post-traumatic stress disorder. Of course, heroes experience physical harm, but they also experience mental harm…sometimes debilitating. Enter the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act.
First Responders at Risk
Today’s post specifically addresses PTSD affecting first responders. First responders who may be exposed to psychological trauma and PTSD symptoms include the following:
- Emergency medical technicians
- Police officers
- Search and rescue team members
As par for the course, first responders deal with a wide array of medical emergencies, many of which are traumatic in themselves. They may see patients experiencing drug overdoses, seizures, life-threatening or other serious injuries, or cardiac or respiratory failure. On top of that, when the first responders arrive at the call, they never know what to expect. They may encounter dangerous situations and environments, gang or drug activity, domestic violence, fires or smoke, dangerous weapons, violent guard dogs, assailants with severe mental illnesses, highly dangerous road conditions, or unsafe or even uninhabitable homes. They may even be involved in a car accident themselves while rushing to answer a call. The element of surprise awaiting every first responder places first responders at risk for developing stress-related conditions.
Can workers’ compensation cover first responders?
Yes, and it often does. North Carolina first responders who develop PTSD because they witnessed a violent event, experienced an accident, or encountered some other trauma while performing their job may be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. To be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, the first responder must show that his or her psychological condition (or the aggravation of it) was (1) due to causes and conditions which are characteristic of and peculiar to a particular trade, occupation or employment, and that it is not (2) an ordinary disease of life to which the general public is equally exposed.
First responders in North Carolina already have successfully proven that their first responder jobs are unusually stressful. For example, in Pulley v. City of Durham, the North Carolina Court of Appeals awarded a police officer workers’ compensation disability benefits after finding the PTSD and depression were compensable due to the stressful nature of the work. Ricci Law Firm can evaluate your unique situation and help you determine whether you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits.
What about a long history of trauma?
Some first responders have a long history of depression, anxiety, or PTSD going way back before the work trauma. Many first responders served our country in a war; experienced childhood or domestic abuse or neglect; were involved in serious motor vehicle accidents; or witnessed trauma to a family member. Fortunately, even if a first responder already had PTSD before taking the job, he or she may still recover workers’ compensation benefits by showing the work event aggravated or worsened the condition. Only a trained psychiatric professional can reach that determination, and Ricci Law Firm can help its clients select a properly-trained expert.
If you or a loved one is a first responder experiencing symptoms of PTSD, contact Ricci Law Firm for a consultation.