Police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical technicians are the first people to arrive at dangerous and deadly situations, putting them at much higher risk of injury than other types of workers. When these hardworking employees are involved in an accident, it can be difficult to tell who should pay for the costs of their injuries. Our personal injury attorneys explain the most common sources of compensation and what you can do to get all you are owed after an on-duty injury.
How to Pay Medical Costs and Other Expenses After an Injury in the Line of Duty
The easiest way to pay for your immediate care is through your own health insurance. Your medical insurance provider can be billed for emergency room visits, surgeries, follow-up appointments, assistive devices, and anything else related to your injury without putting your health or credit in danger. This allows the medical bills to be paid on time while also creating a record of your medical expenses and treatment if you need to file an injury claim in the future.
Law enforcement and first responders may collect additional compensation through:
- Workers’ compensation. Police and emergency professionals are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits to cover medical expenses and lost wages after an on-duty injury. If an officer is killed in the line of duty, workers’ compensation also provides survivor benefits to the victim’s family members. However, filing a workers’ comp claim can involve a lot of paperwork, denials, appeals, and even hearings before benefits may be approved. Even if benefits are awarded, the severe nature of these injuries can cause significant costs that go beyond benefit limits, leaving an employee struggling to cover daily expenses.
- Paid sick leave. Many injured employees use their paid time off, such as sick days or even vacation time balances, to make up for their loss of income while they are unable to work. If this time runs out, the Family and Medical Leave Act (FMLA) provides unpaid extended medical leave to protect your job while you recover from your injuries.
- Disability benefits. Police officers and first responders who have suffered debilitating injuries or disability on the job may qualify for workers’ comp disability benefits. These can be used to provide additional income if you are placed on restricted duty, or total disability benefits if you cannot return to work or earn a living in another job.
- Pensions. The Tennessee Treasury Department provides lifetime retirement, survivor, and disability benefits for government employees and their beneficiaries. It is up to each government entity within the state to offer these pension policies, so there may be a variety of benefit options and limits. For example, both Knoxville and Chattanooga offer a Fire & Police Pension Fund to provide monthly benefits to injured and retired workers and provide for the immediate family in the event of a firefighter or police officer’s death.
- Third-party claims. Although workers’ compensation laws prevent officers from filing lawsuits against their agencies or departments, they do allow third parties to be sued for the costs of an injury. For example, if you were struck while driving your patrol car, you may be able to file a third-party lawsuit against the at-fault driver. The driver’s insurer is then liable for paying the cost of your injuries. These types of personal injury cases can be complicated, so you will need an attorney with experience to prove negligence and get you all that you are owed.
We understand that injury victims are reluctant to take on an additional financial burden after the trauma of an accident. That is why our lawyers provide injury clients with a free initial consultation and represent their interests on a contingent fee basis, meaning we do not collect anything unless we secure a recovery for you. To learn more about your claim, download a free copy of our book, The 10 Worst Mistakes You Can Make With Your Tennessee Injury Case.