Workers’ Compensation for Public Servants – Firefighters, Police Officers, and Medical Emergency Service Workers

Posted on Tuesday, October 2nd, 2018 at 4:49 pm    

Police officers, firefighters, and providers of emergency medical services deserve more than just our thanks and respect. They deserve to be honored for the extremely hard jobs and often dangerous work they do. One way to honor them is to pay them the workers’ compensation benefits they deserve when they are unable to perform their jobs due to workplace injuries or occupational illnesses.

Why the jobs of so many public servants are so dangerous

  • Police officers. Police officers are constantly at risk of being shot or attacked. Just one domestic dispute which gets out of control, one police stop of someone who has a weapon, or one accident while they are trying to direct traffic or help the public – can end in the police officer losing his/her life or suffering long-term injuries. Police work is a tough balance between helping the public and protecting the civil rights of defendants. Police officers also need a proper balance between the emotional stresses of their job and the demanding physical requirements of their job.
  • Firefighters. Any fire can take a firefighter’s life. Even the most skilled firefighters can die or require long-term care if the flames suddenly shift direction or if the smoke overwhelms. Firefighters often must deal with dangerous chemicals and toxins. In some cases, they risk their lives to save a child, spouse, relative, friend, or even a beloved pet from on the onrush of the fire’s flames.
  • EMS employees. EMS workers often fly or speed to help get medical care to someone who has been the victim of an accident, an attack, an illness, or just the events of daily life. EMS workers can be injured in car crashes getting the accident site or going to the emergency room. They can suffer infections or contract diseases from the people they treat. Often, carrying or lifting a patient can result in chronic pain.

Many public servants work long hours, sometimes in the middle of the night. Injuries are a natural part of all three types of public service jobs.

Injuries and illnesses that firefighters, police officers, and EMS workers often need medical care and time off from work for


Public servants who exert themselves physically and emotionally and who work with people in distress can easily suffer an accident or attack that leads to one or more of the following injuries/illnesses:

  • Burns. Firefighters and other servants who get burned during a rescue process, putting out a fire, or for other reasons often need multiple skin graft surgeries. Some workers need to have plastic surgery. These workers often need to take months off from work just to deal with the physical recovery. Many workers also require long-term psychological counseling especially if the burns are on their face or arms.
  • Smoke inhalation. When there’s fire, there’s often smoke. Firefighters inhale the chemicals which can be dangerous. Fires use up the oxygen the firefighters need to breathe. Without oxygen, workers can die due to asphyxiation. Survivors can suffer serious lung damage.
  • Overexertion. Police officer, firefighters, and EMS workers often need to carry or lift heavy objects, move people, or push equipment out of the way. Overexertion often caused back pain, neck pain, and other types of aches. Treatments usually requires extensive physical and rehabilitative therapy. There have been some recent cases that appear to carve out a bit of an exception to the typical rule that such injuries are not compensable as workers compensation. If it can be shown that the overexertion or repeated carrying or exertion occurred over a defined period of time, in that it represents one “piece of work” —such as the rescue of a person from a burning building—then this has been held to be compensable in Virginia.
  • Injuries due to blunt force. Firefighters are at risk for beams, roofs, and other objects falling on them. Police officers are at risk for being struck or getting injured while trying to avoid being hit. EMS workers can be struck by objects at the accident site they go to help the accident victims.
  • Broken bones. One misstep can cause a public servant to fall. A police officer who is attacked can suffer broken ribs, a broken limb, or other broken bones. Firefighters who are struck by objects or who fall (on a floor or even through a floor) can break a bone in any part of the body. One slip means an EMS worker injuries himself/herself and possibly the person who’s being helped.
  • Cuts and bruises. Firefighters, EMS workers or police officers, or any public servant can be injured due to broken glass or other sharp objects if they’re in a vehicle accident or for other reasons.
  • Exposures to toxins and dangerous chemicals. Firefighters may be exposed to toxins when they try to put out a fire. Toxins can cause more than they respiratory problems. They can cause cancer.
  • Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)-Although to a certain degree, “this is what you signed up for,” even the strongest of individuals can break if the situation is so suddenly shocking or frightening that it is out of the norm of what the public servant would normally be exposed to.

Other typical injuries that cause a public servant to need to file for workers’ compensation include:

  • Traumatic brain injury
  • Spinal cord damage
  • Respiratory disorders and illnesses
  • Amputations
  • Loss of vision or hearing
  • Muscle, ligament, and tissue damage
  • Internal bleeding
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Repetitive stress injuries
  • Heart problems such as angina and high blood pressure
  • Exposure to toxins
  • Radiation exposure


Firefighters, police officers, and EMS workers are very prone to develop stress-related disorders and diseases. For this reason, injured public servants should feel confident that these medical conditions will be taken seriously by the North Carolina Industrial Commission or Virginia Workers Compensation Commission.

Get help for your work injury claim today

Joe Miller Esq. has been helping public servants and all types of workers for more than 30 years. At the Work Injury Center, he represents work injury victims in both North Carolina and Virginia. He’s helped thousands of workers get economic justice. To speak with an experienced, caring workers’ compensation lawyer, please call (888) 694-1671 or fill out my contact form.