Does Florida’s Workers’ Comp Cover PTSD?

Maybe you are firefighter.  You are called to a serious fire in a small office building.  A number of people are trapped inside.  You and your crew do your best to save everyone inside, but someone unfortunately perishes.  Once out of the building, you do what you can to revive the person, but your efforts are unsuccessful.  You are not injured in the incident, but you experience trauma from the loss of that victim of the fire.  You begin to experience the symptoms of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) as a result, and feel you need time to deal with the trauma.  You begin to inquire about whether Florida’s workers’ compensation law covers PTSD.

For quite some time, the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act only covered post-traumatic stress disorder if it was accompanied by a physical injury.  That meant that any person, such as a firefighter or emergency medical technician, who suffered PTSD due to a traumatic work event would not be eligible to claim benefits under the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act unless it was tied to a work-related physical injury.

Luckily, Florida officials came to understand that PTSD is a legitimate illness, deserving of workers’ compensation benefits, even without an accompanying physical injury.  This change came only recently.  Accordingly, this article will go into some detail about the specifics of the condition called PTSD, and then discuss the new change in the law on PTSD coverage under the Florida Worker’s Compensation Act.

Of course, this blog can only touch upon the basics of the issue.  If you have detailed questions or concerns about PTSD or other workers’ compensation issues, then you would be wise to check in with the top Florida Workers’ Compensation Act attorneys at Doolittle & Tucker, P.A.  Having helped clients navigate the challenging waters of the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act for decades, and diligently fighting to make sure our clients get the maximum benefits from the Act, we at Doolittle & Tucker know what it takes to make sure that you get the compensation you deserve.  Give us a call for a free case review at 904-396-1734.

Do I Suffer from PTSD?

Post-traumatic stress disorder is a mental condition that results from experiencing or witnessing a terrifying event.  The disorder is typically characterized by experiencing flashbacks, nightmares, or severe anxiety, in addition to constant thoughts about the event.

What can be so difficult about PTSD is that it is a condition where the consistent thoughts about the event force you to experience the emotions of the event anew.  This is different from other events in life that naturally fade into memory, and your brain properly processes the incident by placing it the long-term memory part of the brain.

A particularly traumatic event, however, can be so powerful that it remains in the part of your brain that tricks your body into thinking that the event has just recently occurred.  Constantly feeling the force of such a traumatic incident as if it just occurred can leave your body in a constant state of anxiety.

PTSD Symptoms

It is important to note that post-traumatic stress disorder symptoms may not start immediately after the triggering event.  Depending upon how you process the event, the effects might not materialize for a month, or even years, after it occurred.  That said, once you begin to feel the effects of PTSD, it can severely interfere with your work life, your social life, and your daily functioning.

There are generally four types of PTSD symptoms:

  1. Avoidance

One indication that you are possibly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder is by engaging in “avoidance” behaviors.  That typically means that you try to avoid thinking or talking about the incident that triggered the trauma.  In that same vein, you may also desire to avoid places, activities, or people that remind you of whatever caused the trauma.

  1. Intrusive Memories

As noted, constant thoughts about the traumatic event is a common symptom of PTSD.  The thoughts could manifest as recurring, unwanted, distressing memories of the event.  In addition, you could experience flashbacks, in which you actually re-live the event as if it were happening again.  You could also experience nightmares about the event.  Finally, you may experience emotional distress, anxiety, or even have physical reactions to anything that may remind you of the event.

  1. Changes in Mood and Thoughts

PTSD could also manifest in negative thoughts pointed inwards.  You may have a pessimistic outlook on your life, other people, or the state of the world in general.  You may have a certain hopelessness about the future.  You may have challenges with memory, with maintaining close relationships, with holding interest in activities you once enjoyed, and with finding positive emotions from experiences in life.

  1. Changes in Physical or Emotional Reactions

PTSD symptoms may include so-called “arousal” symptoms.  That means that you may be easily startled, frequently on guard, engaging in self destructive behavior (drinking, reckless conduct), or having trouble sleeping or concentrating.

When it comes to PTSD, you need to be gentle with yourself, and know when to seek help.  If your difficult thoughts about an event continue for more than a month and if you feel that you cannot keep your life under control, then you know it is time to seek the help of a doctor.

Does Florida Workers’ Compensation Act Does Cover PTSD?

The answer is yes – for firefighters, paramedics, EMTs, and other first responders.

While PTSD can be an incredibly difficult condition to deal with, the good news is that Florida lawmakers have recently decided to allow workers’ compensation benefits for PTSD.  Recognizing that PTSD is a serious problem for many first responders, like the firefighter example above, because they get psychological trauma from the events they witness, lawmakers finally made a change to the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act.

The law went into effect in Florida last October.  Now, the “silent killer” of PTSD can be confronted with the help of workers’ compensation benefits for those first responders impacted by the condition.

If you are a first responder and believe that you are suffering from PTSD, or have suffered some other work-related mental or physical injury, consider calling Doolittle & Tucker today.  We have the passion and experience to help you get the help and compensation you need to make your life better.  Call us today at 904-396-1734.