It could be argued that firefighting is one of the most dangerous professions a person could choose. It also is one of the most important support systems found in our communities. When a firefighter is injured on the job, connecting with a Madison County firefighter injury attorney can help them secure the compensation they need to recover and return to bravely serving their community.
The Complex Nature of Firefighter Injuries
When unfortunate circumstances lead to unexpected fires, it’s these brave heroes who show up and run into an unsafe environment to save the lives of countless people each year. Unfortunately, firefighters are prone to injury during their day-to-day operations.
When a firefighter is discharged from duty, they are confronted with many different hazards compared to the average employee. While similar public servant roles like police officers face their own set of unpredictable events on the job, firefighters are forced to wrestle their own unique beast:
- High temperatures. Firefighters must work in an environment that could soar to over a thousand degrees. It’s a sensation that our human instincts typically tell us to run in the other direction. For firefighters, they must actively resist this human temptation. Being surrounded by such high temperatures can cause direct and indirect burns. While a direct burn would be the fire itself touching the human skin, an indirect burn could be the result of a piece of gear heating up to the point that it causes a skin burn.
- Fumes and smoke. Burning objects produce more than just an unbearable temperature. They also dump toxic gases and smoke into the air, which can be deadly. Carbon monoxide, the most common byproduct of these flames, is cause for concern. This specific gas is odorless and colorless. An indication that you might have been exposed to carbon monoxide would be symptoms of dizziness and the sensation that you are about to become unconscious. Firefighters need to protect themselves from fumes and smoke, as prolonged exposure over time can cause long-term respiratory complications.
- Structural collapses. When the alarm sounds and a firefighter needs to enter a burning home, they must be cautious of how the ongoing fire could compromise the structural integrity of the house. Sometimes, during a house fire, walls cave in, floors crumble, and the roof could even collapse. This can entrap both the residents of the home and the firefighters coming in to save them. This can also cause direct injuries to the firefighters as pieces of the home could fall directly on them.
- Physical exertion. This is not your ordinary job, and it’s far from sedentary office work that employs many people across the country. This job demands rapid movement. It requires the ability to carry heavy equipment and to break down doors to rescue victims as fast as possible. This level of physical activity can lead to injuries, ranging from the common sprain to heart-related issues.
- Long-term health risks. While heavy exposure to smoke can cause immediate damage to the body, there is also concern for long-term exposure to certain chemicals that could go unnoticed over time. Even with protective gear, it’s nearly impossible to determine exactly what level of protection will be required on a case-by-case emergency basis. Repeated exposure could increase the risk of cancer or other chronic health conditions.
These injuries can sometimes cause repercussions long beyond the immediate aftermath of a house fire. For example, if a firefighter is burned, they may be required to get skin grafts, spend a lot of overnights at the hospital, or even join physiotherapy sessions. This shows how firefighters aren’t only taking daily risks that can quickly be treated, but they could also have long-term implications that could completely change the trajectory of their lives.
What Can an Injured Firefighter Be Compensated for After Injury?
If a firefighter is injured on the job, some of the costs they could be compensated for include:
- Medical expenses. As long as medical care is related to the workplace injury, reimbursement for the costs can be pursued. This can include the immediate care needed in the emergency room all the way to any rehabilitation services or ongoing medical treatments they need to heal.
- Lost wages. Because a firefighter will likely not be able to return to work immediately, they have a legal avenue to request the money they would have normally been making. This helps ensure there is no risk to the individual’s finances or ability to support their family as they recover from an incident that they did not intentionally cause.
- Permanent or temporary disability benefits. Whether injuries are permanent or the firefighter is expected to make a full recovery, an attorney can help tap into permanent or temporary social security disability benefits. These funds are designed to help support all of the traditional stressors of a work-related injury, such as fear of missing bills or losing certain assets like a home.
- Mental health. PTSD is one of many common mental health issues a firefighter may face after an injury on the job. They may require professional therapy or treatments to overcome this barrier before comfortably returning to work. Paying for this type of therapy can be something included in one’s workplace compensation package.
- Death benefits. In some of the most tragic and upsetting workplace injury events, a firefighter dies from their injuries. In these unfortunate cases, the employee’s dependents are eligible to receive certain death benefits. Typically, a spouse or children are the recipients and can use the funds to cover funeral expenses or other areas of their life that have now been presented with financial strain.
How Preventative Measures Could Influence Final Compensation
Fire departments and their respective governing bodies are constantly implementing different protocols and training to maximize safety on the job. Before compensation is issued, an investigation into how the accident occurred will advance to see if any accountability should fall on the employee.
If there is any evidence that a firefighter willingly violated a safety protocol, it could impact their eligibility for a full compensation package. On the flip side, if an investigation reveals that a fire department’s safety rules were inadequate to protect the employee, it could dramatically increase the compensation the firefighter receives due to their employer’s negligence. This could also be true in a scenario where an investigation discovers that the firefighter was not receiving adequate ongoing training.
The quality of the equipment they were using during the event could also have an impact on final compensation. If the employee was forced to use faulty or outdated equipment that could not withstand the rigor of the job, it could increase compensation. In the event the equipment was faulty, that opens up another avenue for compensation by allowing the employee to file a claim against the equipment manufacturer or whatever party is responsible for maintenance.
What Is the Role of a Madison County Firefighter Workers’ Compensation Attorney?
When a firefighter is struck with a workplace tragedy, their immediate focus should be on receiving medical treatment and recovering. The next priority should be to seek legal counsel. Typically, the medical bills and lost wages from work will already motivate firefighters injured to seek help.
A workers’ comp lawyer can provide support by:
- Leveraging their knowledge and experience. Because firefighters, like most of the public, did not attend law school, navigating the process of a workers’ compensation case can become paralyzing. This is why hiring an attorney can reduce a lot of stress. Their knowledge in the space, coupled with a track record of helping other clients in your same situation, can be instrumental to maximizing how much money you receive from your work injuries. They can also get all paperwork completed and submitted on time, ensuring no one can take away any compensation over an overlooked technicality.
- Advocating for your injury. A compensation attorney is the ultimate advocate for the injured. Because they do not share in the interests of the insurance companies or the company their clients work for, they serve as an unbiased lifeline. If any disputes were to arise during the workers’ compensation process, they would be prepared to present counterarguments backed by evidence to stand up for you.
- Understanding and navigating special considerations for public employees. Firefighters, along with police officers and similar civil servant professions, are considered to be public employees. These types of roles often have unique clauses and considerations within their compensation packages compared to the average citizen who works for a private company. This requires an attorney to invoke any special rights within a public employee’s contract to their financial benefit.
- Long-term planning. If a firefighter is facing long-term injuries, an attorney can set their future up for success. By tapping into the possibility of disability pensions, medical coverage extensions, or even vocational rehabilitation support, a workers’ comp attorney is key to ensuring every option is exhausted for long-term financial support. This can significantly reduce a firefighter’s stress to keep up with bills and support their families as they navigate their future, dealing with new injuries they could have never anticipated.
Contact Joshua R. Evans, Attorney at Law Today
If you are a firefighter in Illinois who has just been injured on the job, get in contact with Joshua R. Evans, Attorney at Law, today. We treat our clients like family and will not rest until we are certain every dollar in your compensation claim has been explored and secured for your case.