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Firefighters and Workers' Comp: The Basics

Firefighting is one of the most dangerous occupations in the United States. In 2015, 68 firefighters died on the job, while another 68,085 were injured. About 29,130 of those injuries happened at the fireground, but the majority of the damage wasn’t caused by fire. The two most common injuries sustained by firefighters are falls/slips and overexertion or strain, followed by:

  • Flying/falling objects
  • Exposure to fire products
  • Contact with an object
  • Exposure to chemicals/radiation
  • Extreme weather

California law specifically protects firefighters in Labor Codes §3211 and §3212, which address all of the health hazards these public employees are exposed to in the line of duty. For example, Labor Code §3212 specifies if an active firefighter sustains a hernia, heart trouble, or pneumonia, they will be compensated with “full hospital, surgical, medical treatment, disability indemnity, and death benefits” and that such an illness or injury “shall be presumed to arise out of and in the course of the employment.”

This part of the law specifies that it is likely a firefighter’s grievance will be considered valid unless someone presents evidence controverting the evidence of the harm sustained on the job. In other words, a person in this line of work is more likely to receive full compensation under California law because their profession is considered so hazardous that an injury is inevitable.

Physical Strain

A firefighter on active duty is subject to highly stressful situations on a day-to-day basis. Not only is it difficult to balance their work and social lives, but they also frequently encounter sleep deprivation. If an emergency happens at midnight, they must be up and ready to go in a few minutes. Emergencies in one area can also occur several times a night. Sleep deprivation has been linked to physical and mental issues, such as immune system problems, increased accidents, mood swings, and poor decision making.

Stress itself can also influence heart health. High-stress situations can lead to high blood pressure (hypertension), which itself increases a person’s chance of heart failure. Hypertension causes a thickening of the aorta that results in less effective muscle relaxation between beats. It can also trigger ischemic heart disease, which reduces the amount of blood in the heart. Sudden cardiac deaths accounted for about 51% of fatalities in 2015.

You’re protected under California law as a firefighter, but, if you encounter any difficulties with a rejected claim, contact one of our Woodland Hills workers’ compensation attorneys. We have decades of experience fighting for injured employees. Contact us at 818-888-3000 or fill out our online form for a free case consultation.

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