injured law enforcement officer on stretcher going into ambulance

Nashville Personal Injury Attorneys Explain Compensation Options for Injured First Responders

First responders put their lives on the line every day in Tennessee. They’re constantly facing hazardous situations to serve and protect their community. Unfortunately, this vital duty can often result in serious injuries. Workers’ compensation benefits may not cover all the costs, leaving injured paramedics, firefighters, or police officers needing to explore other options to pay for their losses. The experienced Tennessee personal injury lawyers at GriffithLaw can explain possible avenues, like suing liable third parties, to ensure these brave individuals secure the fair compensation they rightfully deserve.

Types of Injuries Suffered by First Responders on Duty

First responders are dispatched to a wide range of potentially dangerous scenarios. Firefighters may enter burning buildings to rescue trapped residents or retrieve frightened cats stuck in trees. Paramedics and EMTs treat victims of car and workplace accidents. Law enforcement officers may have to respond to active shooter or hostage situations.

Because they may often put themselves in harm’s way, first responders are also at much greater risk of injury than the general population. The types of injuries they may suffer are equally varied, depending on the circumstances of the task at hand. Common first responder injuries may include:

  • Cuts and bruises
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Exposure to toxic fumes and other hazardous materials
  • Respiratory issues from smoke inhalation
  • Burns and scarring
  • Car accident injuries
  • Pedestrian accident injuries
  • Dog bites and other animal attacks
  • Injuries from stabbing, shooting, and other acts of violence
  • Slip and fall accidents
  • Herniated discs, contusions, strains, and sprains
  • Partial and completely fractured bones
  • Nerve damage
  • Death

Impact on Ability to Work and Earn a Living

First responders who suffer an injury while on the job may be unable to continue working while they recover from their injuries. This applies whether the injury occurs when attending an emergency or any other time they are on duty. In some cases, the injury may be immediately apparent. In other cases, symptoms may not present themselves until later on.

Either way, it is imperative to see a doctor for a full evaluation as soon after the incident as possible. A qualified medical professional can assess injuries, offer a prognosis, and prescribe a treatment plan. The doctor can provide their expert medical opinion on whether the injury may prevent you from being able to work and earn a living.

The severity of the injury directly impacts the extent of losses you may incur. A minor hospital visit and two weeks off from work to rest is quite different from a long-term injury or even a lifetime of impairment from a debilitating injury.

Seeking Compensation From a Liable Third Party

In Tennessee, first responders have the legal right to file a third-party lawsuit to pursue compensation from liable parties. This is similar to a personal injury lawsuit someone may file when they are not working, like slipping on a wet floor in a restaurant or colliding with a semi-truck on the highway. 

On-duty first responders are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they are hurt while working, but these benefits may be insufficient to cover their losses and expenses. Furthermore, workers’ compensation claims do not hold negligent or otherwise liable parties liable for damages, whereas third-party lawsuits can. The argument can be made to pursue civil action in the case of acts of violence, industrial fires, and other dangerous situations requiring assistance from a first responder for which a third party may have legal liability.

Workers’ Compensation Claim vs. Personal Injury Lawsuit

A third-party lawsuit against liable parties and a workers’ compensation claim are two distinct avenues for seeking restitution for workplace injuries.

Workers’ Compensation

Workers’ compensation is a no-fault insurance system provided by employers. It does not cover non-economic damages like pain and suffering and can have low payout limits. Tennessee Senate Bill 856 allows compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) symptoms suffered by emergency first responders, especially those in the fire service. However, workers’ compensation may not cover volunteer firefighters.

Personal Injury Liability

Outside of workers’ compensation, injured first responders may file a third-party personal injury lawsuit against liable parties other than the employer they believe to be responsible for their injury. Liable parties may include property owners, equipment manufacturers, and members of the general public. To receive any payment, plaintiffs must prove that the other party’s negligence caused their injury.

What You Need to Prove to Win Your Personal Injury Case

Many situations in which a first responder is injured may involve third-party liability. To win a personal injury lawsuit in Tennessee, the injured party must establish four main elements:  

  • The defendant owed you a reasonable duty of care.
  • The defendant breached this duty of care through a negligent act, intentional act, or failure to act.
  • Their duty of care breach caused your injuries.
  • You suffered damages from injuries that resulted from this breach

If you are a first responder who has suffered an injury for which you believe a party other than your employer is liable, consult with the legal team at GriffithLaw to assess your claim. We will work with you to collect evidence and develop a compelling case for full and fair compensation.

Damages You May Recover in Settlement

When firefighters, paramedics, police officers, or other first responders suffer injuries in the line of duty, they should not have to shoulder the resulting financial burden. The damages an injured first responder may seek to recover when suing liable third parties include:

  • Current medical costs, like emergency room visits
  • Long-term rehabilitation and treatment costs
  • Lost wages and reduced earning potential
  • Cost of assistive devices
  • Expenses incurred for home health equipment
  • Physical pain and suffering
  • Emotional trauma and/or distress
  • Temporary or permanent disability
  • Funeral and/or burial expenses (in the case of wrongful death)

Turn to GriffithLaw for Trusted Legal Assistance

The trusted personal injury attorneys at GriffithLaw are here to assist injured first responders in every step of the recovery process. When you hire us to represent you, our legal team will:

  • Evaluate what your personal injury case is worth
  • Consult with expert witnesses
  • Gather relevant evidence, including surveillance footage
  • Collect eyewitness testimony
  • Advocate for your interests in dealing with insurance companies
  • Represent you in court if the case goes to trial

We will work diligently to prepare and deliver a comprehensive case on your behalf to help you receive fair compensation for the damages you have suffered.

John Griffith
Connect with me
Nashville Personal Injury Trial Attorney