Police officers risk their health, their lives, and the wellbeing of their families every day they serve a public they’ve sworn to protect. Routine traffic stops and other seemingly peaceful situations can become dangerous instantly and without notice. Because patrol officers spend their days and nights driving, they are constantly at risk of being injured in automobile accidents. In short, because they place themselves directly in the path of all oncoming threats to public safety, work-related injuries are almost inevitable for police officers.
Because the overwhelming majority of police officers love their jobs and remain eager to serve the public even when they are hurt, many are tempted to either ignore or downplay the significance or work-related injuries. But a seemingly minor twinge, ache or exposure can become a real problem overnight.
In this brief post and those that will follow, we’ll take a quick look at workers’ compensation issues impacting Colorado police officers.
In Colorado, virtually all employers are required to provide workers’ compensation coverage to their employees. While foremost among those regarded as public servants, police officers are employees and entitled to full coverage for work-related injuries. Of course, the cost of coverage cannot be passed on to employees and police officers cannot be “punished” for filing workers’ compensation claims for injuries sustained in the line of duty.
If injured, and whenever possible, all employees should report work-related injuries to their employer in writing within four days of the incident. Failing to file a claim with four days does not bar recovery of workers compensation benefits but it can result in the imposition of a penalty. The sooner a claim is filed the sooner the injured employee can obtain treatment from authorized providers. The expense of non-emergent medical treatment can and likely will become an injured worker’s responsibility when they seek treatment outside the system before notifying the employer of their injury.
Because failure to comply with the “four-day” rule is often misconstrued as a complete bar to recovery, note that the statute of limitations for filing most claims with the State’s Division of Workers’ Compensation is actually two years. Waiting, however, is always a mistake that can complicate and even compromise an injured worker’s right to collect the benefits he or she is due.
Reasonable and related medical care is probably the most important benefit available to injured workers at the outset. Emergency care should be sought at the nearest facility. Except in some cases where a claim is contested, nonemergent care through authorized providers will become available once the claim is filed. Depending on where they live and the number of providers available in a given area, most injured workers must be provided with a list of approved providers within seven days of reporting the incident. Moreover, within the first 90 days, Colorado employees have the right to change providers at least once.
The National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health reports that police officers are three times more likely to suffer a nonfatal injury than all other U.S. occupations combined. Some of the most common injuries include traumas from assaults and other violent acts, transportation-related (such as motor vehicle accidents), and falls.
To obtain appropriate care for any work-related injury – whether at the nearest ER or at the office authorized providers – injured employees should report all the injuries they have suffered and all symptoms they are experiencing. Injuries, conditions, and symptoms that go unreported are problems that will go untreated: problems that could later become disabling. It is often difficult to get proper treatment for injuries and symptoms that are identified. It can become impossible to get treatment for medical problems that are not reported. Whenever possible, identify injuries and symptoms in writing. Identify them verbally, as well, and then check medical reports to make certain that problems reported verbally are being recorded and addressed.
It is a strange trick of fate that police officers – the employees most likely to get hurt while working — are the employees least likely to report or complain about the injuries they sustain. In all except the most catastrophic of cases, most police officers can and do either hide or downplay the severity of their injuries. The average “flesh wound,” however, is rarely cured by “rubbing some dirt on it” or through tincture of time. In short, for their own sake and the sake of their families, police officers should speak up. Report the injury to the employer. Report all injuries and symptoms to your doctor. Rinse. Wash. And repeat.
If you are working as a law enforcement officer in Colorado, you have a right to fair compensation under the law. If you are unsure of what those rights are, or don’t feel that you’ve been given the appropriate compensation, it’s best practice to consult with a personal injury lawyer. These professionals understand the ins and outs of the compensation system and how to get a fair amount.
If you are a police officer in Colorado and you have questions or think you haven’t been compensated fairly, contact the law offices of Keating Wagner. One of the top personal injury law firms in Colorado, they will work tirelessly to ensure that you get the compensation you deserve.