January 9th is National Law Enforcement Appreciation Day. We recognize the extraordinary sacrifices law enforcement officers often make to just do their ordinary job—keeping us safe. There is no typical day for police officers, correctional officers or security guards. Interacting with the public and criminals presents an unknown challenge every day. More than 800,000 law enforcement officers risk their lives daily to ensure Americans’ safety.
Police and law enforcement officers have one of the highest rates of injury among all occupations. According to the latest data, in one year, cops experienced more than 6,000 non-fatal injuries and over 58,000 were assaulted. Most fatal injuries occurred when officers were responding to disturbance calls or performing a traffic stop. Firearms were the cause of the majority of fatalities.
Here are seven things all police officers should be aware of regarding injuries on the job.
- Motor vehicle accidents are a common source of injuries. Cars, motorcycles and bikes are typical means of transportation for police officers. Accidents can occur because of other drivers or during pursuits of suspects. Bruises, scrapes, sprains, strains, broken bones, herniated discs and concussions, may occur among other injuries. If an officer gets into an accident, he or she may be eligible for additional compensation from the third party involved in the crash. An experienced injury attorney can determine if a third-party case is possible.
- Back injuries and herniated discs can leave lasting effects. Officers may need to carry individuals or wrestle with offenders, which can lead to back pain and herniated discs. Chronic back pain can remain and require continual medical treatment.
- Falls can lead to joint injuries. While pursuing offenders, officers may slip and fall, which can cause them to land awkwardly on the ground. Hand, wrist, knee and shoulder injuries can occur when officers try to break their falls.
- Traumatic events can lead to psychological injuries. Law enforcement is an inherently dangerous job, which can expose officers to disturbing incidents. They may witness murders, be assaulted or see a tragic accident. Psychological conditions such as post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), depression and anxiety are common work-related injuries that police officers may experience. If these conditions developed or worsened as a direct result of their occupation, officers may be eligible for workers’ compensation.
- Pre-existing conditions that are aggravated or accelerated because of job duties may be compensable. Being a cop can be a very physical job. Officers tend to be on their feet a lot or need to sprint at a moment’s notice. If officers have a pre-existing condition such as back or joint pain, and it is worsened because of their repetitive job duties, they may have a workers’ compensation claim. Some employers may try to fight pre-existing claims so it’s critical to have a workers’ compensation lawyer on your side.
- Police officers are entitled to Heart and Lung Act benefits in addition to workers’ compensation. In Pennsylvania, police officers and other law enforcement officials are eligible for separate benefits under the state’s Heart and Lung Act. Heart and lung benefits provide full salary compensation and medical benefits to officers injured on the job and expected to recover and return to work.
- It is crucial to report work injuries immediately. Most police forces have a well-established process for reporting injuries; disciplinary action may occur if injuries are not reported. It is always important to notify supervisors of all injuries – regardless of their severity. Even small injuries could worsen over time and jeopardize officers’ careers if not treated properly. Alerting supervisors of injuries as soon as they occur also protect officers’ rights to workers’ compensation.
If you are a police or law enforcement officer who has been hurt at work, contact us for a free consultation.