MINNEAPOLIS PERSONAL INJURY LAWYERS: CUMULATIVE POST-TRAUMATIC STRESS DISORDER IN POLICE OFFICERS, FIREFIGHTERS
A new law has gone into effect that may drastically change the way in which work-related PTSD claims are handled in Minnesota. For PTSD (Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder) injuries that occur starting January 1, 2019, there is now a presumption for first responders that their PTSD is work-related. A first responder’s PTSD still must meet the required elements in the DSM-V (Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V), and be diagnosed by a qualified doctor of medicine or psychology for the new assumption to apply. In this scenario, “presumption” means that the court will presume a first responder is entitled to compensation when they suffer from PTSD resulting from on-the-job trauma.
The positions covered by this “first responder presumption” include: licensed police officers, sheriff’s deputies, state troopers, firefighters, paramedics, emergency medical technicians, corrections officers and many more. If you fall under one of these covered positions, and you’ve been diagnosed with PTSD, this new legal presumption will apply in your circumstances if:
- you were on active duty,
- you did not have a previous PTSD diagnosis, and
- your PTSD injury was claimed on or after January 1, 2019.
Sadly, the culture within law enforcement often discourages police officers from seeking help for symptoms of PTSD, and despite the law change, insurance companies are still denying PTSD claims. Fortunately, Schmidt Salita Law Team has extraordinary experience and success in establishing entitlement to workers’ compensation and PERA/MSRS Duty Disability benefits for firefighters suffering from PTSD.
Fifteen years ago, many people had never heard of PTSD. Even today most people still associate PTSD with military personnel, who often suffer from the effects of PTSD from a single traumatic incident or exposure in the line of duty. Thus, when you ask a soldier the cause of their PTSD, they can usually point to a single incident or series of incidents that first sparked onset of their PTSD symptoms.
Luckily, times are changing. Minnesota Police officers, firefighters and first responders that suffer from PTSD have more resources, allies, and legal protections in their corner than anytime in Minnesota’s history.
What Causes PTSD?
It is often the case that PTSD symptoms manifest over time as a result of multiple traumatic experiences, and it is difficult to point to just one incident as the inciting event. Many events can cause PTSD in police officers specifically, such as shootings or “shots fired” calls, motor vehicle collisions involving fatalities or severe injuries, hostage situations, dangerous drug busts, domestic dispute calls, child abuse investigations, and other situations that involve exposure to serious injury or death. There is no rhyme or reason for why one person develops PTSD and another does not. There is also no reason why one particular event “causes” PTSD while another, perhaps more traumatic event, does not. With police officers, PTSD may occur as a result of numerous events that arise throughout an officer’s career.
The Workers Compensation Act recognizes post-traumatic stress disorder as a compensable injury as of October 1, 2013, and the Act defines PTSD by the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders-V (DSM-V). This manual specifically describes the types of incidents that are required for a PTSD diagnosis. These incidents include exposure to actual or threatened death, serious injury, or sexual violence in on or more of the following ways:
- Directly experiencing the traumatic event(s);
- Witnessing, in person, the event(s) as it occurred to others;
- Learning that the traumatic event(s) occurred to a close family members or close friend; or
- Experiencing repeated or extreme exposure to aversive details of the traumatic event(s).
The DSM-V offers an example for #4 above – first responders who collect human remains, or police officers exposed to details of child abuse.
Other stressful situations may also contribute to a police officer’s overall deterioration in mental health, including long hours, politics within the police department, not knowing what the next call will be or when it will come in, and handling the attitudes of others. Further, officers are often times criticized and investigated for the decisions they have to make within a split second. While this likely contributes to an officer’s mental condition, unfortunately these factors are not legally considered events that lead to PTSD.
Signs And Symptoms Of Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
There are many symptoms of PTSD. A common symptom witnessed in most of our clients is their report of having irritable behavior or angry outbursts with little to no provocation. This is consistent with the medical literature, since PTSD inhibits one’s ability to appropriately handle stress. On a scale of 1 to 10, with 10 being the most stress you’ve ever had in your life, a person with PTSD may rate going to the mall or grocery store at a 7, when a person without PTSD may rate it as a 1 or a 2.
Other signs and symptoms to watch for include but are not limited to:
• Irritability or frequent anger;
• Withdrawal from family and friends;
• Emotional outbursts;
• Suspicion or paranoia;
• Risk taking behaviors such as excessive drinking, drug use or risky sexual behaviors;
• Insomnia or difficulty falling asleep;
• Anxiety or panic feelings;
• Panic attacks;
• Intrusive thoughts;
• Avoiding people or places;
• Easily distracted;
• Lack of concentration;
• Recurring thoughts;
• Judgment errors;
• Sweating, trembling or shaking;
• Negative beliefs about yourself;
• Inability to feel positive emotions;
• Hyper-vigilance; and
• Exaggerated startle response.
An important statistic to remember is that 10–30% of first responders will develop PTSD in the course of their career. These injuries can be just as serious and dangerous as physical injuries and should be taken seriously. Early intervention in the form of therapy and/or prescription medication is likely the single best thing you can do for a PTSD diagnosis. But, there is no one answer for everyone. What may work in one person’s treatment may not work for another. However, the faster you seek assistance for your post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms, the greater the chance you have of making a rapid and full recovery.
Under the Workers’ Compensation Act, benefits are available for Minnesota police officers and first responders who develop PTSD on the job. These benefits include wage loss, rehabilitation, and medical care and treatment. If you or someone you know suffers from PTSD due to a work-related accident or traumatic incident, we invite you to consult with an experienced PSTD Attorney. At Schmidt Salita Law Team we have represented many clients with PTSD, including police officers, firefighters, first responders, correctional officers, paramedics, and state troopers. We understand this nuanced area of the law and work with our clients to ensure you receive the full benefits that you are entitled to under the law. Contact Schmidt Salita Law Team for a no-obligation consultation today.
PERSONAL INJURY LEGAL SERVICES WITH A PERSONAL TOUCH!
At Schmidt Salita Law Team we are proud of our lawyering skills. We expect excellence of ourselves, and our clients should expect the same. A Schmidt Salita First Responders Lawyer can come to your home, or the hospital, for your initial visit. The Schmidt Salita Law Team strives to provide personal injury legal services with a personal touch to help the victims of personal injury through a very difficult time in their lives.