Sep 3 2019
Recently, I had the pleasure of representing a first responder who has dedicated almost his entire life to fire service at a trial on two of his workers compensation claims. While the issues in litigation for both claims were not novel or complicated, the Employer/Carrier fought tooth and nail to keep these workers comp benefits out of my client’s hands. The benefits we sought are very common and most injured workers don’t realize that they are entitled to them under Florida law.
First, we were fighting over compensability of bilateral hearing loss. With the exposure to sirens, loud engines, radios, powerful life-saving equipment and the like, hearing loss is bound to happen in our first responder community. This type of injury is considered continuous exposure because each time you begin a new shift; you are exposed to these loud sounds all over again. Typically, worker’s comp will deny these claims as being “age related” hearing loss. Do not accept this response! Without any other type of noise exposure in your medical history, worker’s comp will have a tough time proving whether your hearing loss is age-related or not because of your work as a first responder.
With the advanced hearing aids that are available on the market now, worker’s compensation doctors are able to write prescriptions for the specific model and type that can work with your gear and helmet to ensure that you are comfortable and are not struggling to hear in your work or personal environment.
The second issue we addressed at trial dealt with indemnity benefits for a certain period of time. Indemnity benefits are the monetary benefits worker’s comp owes when you are on a “no work” status or on a “light duty” status earning less than 80% of your pre-injury wages. Sometimes, your worker’s comp doctor will place work restrictions on you that your employer cannot or will not accommodate. You then find yourself stuck burning through your own sick time. This is a tactic employed by the insurance companies to avoid placing benefits in the hands of injured workers. It is an attempt to take advantage of those who are unrepresented and unlikely to ask questions or challenge what they are being told.
Please contact us if you feel you have hearing loss as a result of your career as a first responder or if you are being required by your Employer to use your own leave time for a worker’s compensation injury.