Why Are Workers' Compensation Firefighter Cases Different?

Firefighter work injuries are different than regular workers' compensation cases. Most full time firefighter personnel get CalPERS retirement. Workers' compensation injuries can impact a person's ability to work, and this can raise retirement issues.

Regular workers' compensation benefits may not be the only consideration in a cases involving a firefighters.

- Jason Wells, Attorney At Law

Full Salary in Lieu of Temporary Disability

Based on Labor Code 4850, city and county firefighters who are employed full-time are entitled to leave of absence benefits while disabled without a loss of salary in lieu of temporary disability payments. That is, the employees are paid their full salary following an industrial injury, rather than the two-thirds paid for temporary disability. The benefits are paid for a period not exceeding one year. If the disability continues beyond one year, regular temporary disability is paid out as normal for the remainder of the disability

Industrial Disability Retirement (IDR)

Industrial Disability Retirement (IDR) is a benefit available to firefighter employees (whose essential job functions are considered safety) who are medically eligible for retirement because of a work related injury.

Essential Job Functions

Understanding firefighter employees' job essential functions can be critical to multitude of issues both in the workers' compensation system and other benefits provided by CalPERS. In safety cases, having an understanding of your essential job duties or your HR departments' job description on your safety position can be a critical part of handling multiple issues in your case. We recommend you obtain a job description from your HR department and review it to ensure that it accurately reflects your job duties; then provide a copy to your physician who is to assess your ability to do the job.

Injury Presumptions

City and county firefighters with injuries involving heart, pneumonia, tuberculosis, meningitis, blood borne illness, cancer, MRSA, and biochemical exposure are given special consideration by workers' compensation courts.

The heart presumption is a critical one to understand, because heart conditions often go undetected. Our recommendation is that before any corrections employee leaves their job either through change in circumstance or retirement, they have their doctor schedule an echocardiogram (EKG) and EBCT Heart Scan to make sure the heart is functioning properly, especially if the employee has had a history of hypertensive disease. If not, the heart presumption can help get you workers' compensation benefits if there is undetected symptoms.