Firefighters are four times more likely to die from suicide than any other work-related death. This is just one fact touted by SB-542, Stern. Workers’ Compensation, which exists to help members of fire service and law enforcement pursue treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
The bill was signed into law by Governor Gavin Newsom on Tuesday, October 1, and specifically addresses PTSD in firefighters and peace officers. Under previous law, the term “injury” did not explicitly include PTSD, but with SB-542, PTSD is presumed to be a work-related injury for firefighters and members of law enforcement.
Why Target Firefighters and Peace Officers?
According to the bill, firefighting and law enforcement are two of the nation’s most stressful occupations, outdone only by active combat in the military. Because of the trauma firefighters and peace officers encounter on a daily basis, workers are considered to be “uniquely susceptible to the emotional and behavioral impacts of job-related stressors.”
Traumatic events encountered by firefighters and peace officers include:
- Life and death decisions
- The deaths of young children (often in front of their grieving families)
- Exposure to communicable diseases and known carcinogens
- Constant risk of bodily harm and/or physical assault
In addition, these first responders spend significant time away from their families and their positions are considered physically and mentally exhausting.
What Is Covered Under SB-542?
The new bill extends full coverage to firefighters in departments across the state, and to peace officers, as defined by the California Penal Code.
Workers’ comp covers full compensation for the costs of medical treatment, including hospitalization and surgery, as well as disability indemnity and death benefits.
If workers can come forward without being questioned, they are expected to take advantage of treatment before their PTSD becomes debilitating and leads to severe depression and suicide.
The bill will take effect on January 1, 2020 and stay active until January 1, 2025.
If you need help filing a workers’ comp claim under the new law, our attorneys are here to help. At the Law Offices of Andrew B. Shin, we have been in practice for over 25 years and are dedicated to fighting for our clients.