Work-related injuries and occupational diseases are common in many industries. However, public safety employees often face situations and conditions daily that can result in a workplace injury or occupational illness. The Workers’ Compensation Code provides specific considerations for public safety employees. These specific considerations include special legal presumptions and higher rates for benefits.
If you are a public safety employee, you may be entitled to a variety of workers’ comp benefits if you are injured on the job. Some of the workers’ compensation benefits that you may be entitled to receive include:
- Medical treatment
- Temporary wage benefits
- Vocational rehabilitation
- Compensation for permanent disability
If you are a public safety employee injured in the line of duty, contact the Pinder Plotkin Legal Team to discuss your legal rights for obtaining workers’ compensation benefits.
Who Are Public Safety Employees in Maryland?
As mentioned above, the workers’ compensation laws in Maryland contain several favorable provisions for public safety employees. To determine if you are entitled to special provisions if you suffer a covered occupational illness, the first step is to verify that you are considered a public safety employee under Maryland’s Workers’ Compensation Code.
Section 9-628(a) of the MD Lab & Emp Code defines public safety employees as:
- Firefighters, paramedics, and firefighting instructors employed by a county, fire control district, the State, a municipal corporation, or the State Airport Authority.
- Volunteer firefighters and volunteer rescue, ambulance, or advanced life support workers who are covered under Section 9-234 of the code who provide services for a county, fire control district, the State, a municipal corporation, or the State Airport Authority.
- Police officers employed by the State, a municipal corporation, the State Airport Authority, a county, the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority, or the Maryland-National Capital Park and Planning Commission.
- An Allegany County deputy sheriff.
- A Baltimore County deputy sheriff when the injury arises out of certain circumstances.
- A Prince George’s County deputy sheriff or correctional officer.
- A Howard County deputy sheriff.
- A Montgomery County deputy sheriff or correctional officer.
- An Anne Arundel County deputy sheriff or detention officer.
Section 9-503 of the MD Lab & Emp Code lists the public safety employees who are entitled to legal presumptions for occupational illnesses. The public safety employees listed in §9-503 are similar to the definition of public safety employees in §9-628. However, the code sections are not identical. It is important to consult with a Maryland workers’ compensation attorney for public safety employees to ensure that you are entitled to the presumptions for occupational illnesses outlined in §9-503.
Special Workers’ Compensation Provisions for Maryland Public Safety Employees
Two of the important provisions for public safety employees is the presumption of occupational illnesses and increased compensation levels.
If certain public safety employees suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure), heart disease, lung disease, some forms of cancer, or Lyme disease, it is assumed that the condition is an occupational illness. Therefore, it is up to the employer or the workers’ compensation insurance carrier to prove that the employee’s job conditions did not cause the condition. The presumption can make it easier to receive workers’ comp benefits, but it is not a guarantee.
In addition to the presumptions of law, some public safety employees receive higher levels of compensation for disabilities compared to civilian employees. Because some disability claims for public safety employees are calculated on a higher tier than civilian employees, a public safety employee may receive approximately double the compensation for the same or a similar injury.
It is important as a public safety employee to seek medical treatment and file a workers’ comp claim if you are diagnosed with heart disease, high blood pressure, certain cancers, or Lyme disease (for certain employees). A Maryland workers’ compensation attorney can review the facts in the case to determine if the public safety employee meets the requirements for the special considerations given to them for certain workers’ comp claims.
Maryland police officers, along with other public safety employees, are given significant additional consideration under the WCA for those injuries that fall within the mid-tier of compensable injuries. For example, when a civilian employee has suffered a 10% disability, due to a back injury, the worker is entitled to receive 500 (number of compensable weeks) x 10% (percentage of PPD) = 50 weeks. The total benefit will be $5,700 based on the minor tier’s AWW ($114). If a similar injury is suffered by a law enforcement officer, the compensation for the officer will be based on the mid-tier, or 500 X 10% = 500 weeks x $257 = $12,850. So the difference between the tiers is quite significant.
Also, the prevalence of heart disease and hypertension among public safety personnel has led to legislatively created presumptions that favor employees who suffer from these conditions. The WCA specifically provides that heart disease and hypertension among paramedics, firefighters, and law enforcement officers are presumed to be work-related, and the employer has the burden to prove otherwise. Also, due to employers having certain restrictions placed on them, it is very difficult to disprove the work-relatedness for these conditions
How Workers Compensation Benefits Differ for Public Safety Officers
Police officers in Maryland are provided with special privileges that are not available to the general public. The following are a few of the benefits:
Higher Rate of Compensation
In many claims, police officers are eligible to receive a higher rate of compensation compared to other injured workers. Officers are allowed to receive around twice the amount that someone else would get for the identical injury suffered by a police officer.
High Blood Pressure (Hypertension)
When police officers are diagnosed with hypertension, they are entitled to receive workers’ compensation benefits. To file a hypertension claim is a really simple and straightforward process as long as you have the right legal representation. After your claim has bee accepted, you will not need to ever pay for your medications again (and no co-pays either!). You are also eligible to receive financial compensation after your claim has been accepted.
Police officers are also eligible to receive worker’s compensation benefits if they have heart disease. It includes a number of different heart conditions, including sudden heart failure, cardiac arrhythmia, and coronary artery disease.
Consulting a Maryland Workers’ Comp Attorney for Public Safety Employees
Some workers’ comp claims filed by public safety employees are straightforward. However, employers and workers’ compensation insurance companies may try to fight a claim filed under the presumption statute. An attorney can help you file your claim and fight for all workers’ comp benefits you are entitled to receive as a public safety employee.
If you suffer from heart disease, high blood pressure, or cancer, call our office now to speak with a Maryland workers’ comp lawyer. Contact Pinder Plotkin LLC at 410-525-5337 to schedule your free consultation with a Parkville workers’ compensation lawyer.