Under the South Carolina workers’ compensation law, police officers and firefighters are eligible to collect payments for physical or mental injuries. To confirm a worker is experiencing either type of injury, medical evidence is necessary.

However, it can be extremely difficult to demonstrate that mental injuries have occurred if they aren’t related to physical problems. Often, police officers and firefighters may find it hard to make a case that they have mental suffering alone.

Furthermore, the law demands that employees show that their mental anguish is due to “extraordinary and unusual conditions.” This makes it even harder for police officers and firefighters to get the help they need after enduring highly charged emotional situations in the line of duty.

But there could be some relief in sight.

South Carolina Lawmakers Look to Revise Law

In late February, the House Judiciary Committee supported a new bill that exempts public safety workers from the “extraordinary and unusual” measurement for mental injuries. This proposed change was made in response to a decision last year by the South Carolina Supreme Court denying a police officer who shot and killed an assailant in the line of duty from receiving workers’ compensation benefits for post-traumatic stress because the court found that it was not “extraordinary and unusual” for a police officer to shoot and kill someone. However, the court was troubled by the inequitable result and it urged the legislature to consider changes to the law.

While most of us would want to protect police officers and fire-fighters to the fullest extent possible because of the dangers of their jobs, some local governments in South Carolina oppose this change in the law. Their concern is that in a time of serious budget cuts, they don’t have the resources to handle what could be a significant amount of expensive claims.

Additionally, they argue there are other ways that these workers can address mental challenges from on-the-job incidents. Police officers, firefighters and other public safety employees can draw from their disability retirement or collect Social Security Disability payments.

Still, state lawmakers feel this is an important change to help these workers handle trauma without having to jump through so many hoops, and many feel the claims being made by lobbyists for government entities about how many of these claims would exist are grossly exaggerated. South Carolina’s “extraordinary and unusual” requirement for workers’ compensation in cases of mental injury is considered a higher standard than many other states in the country.

Need Legal Help?

When you’re committed to a job, you expect your employer will protect you from danger. So if you suffer an injury and are denied treatment or other through workers’ compensation, it’s natural to feel betrayed. That’s why our South Carolina workers’ compensation attorneys at Joye Law Firm are ready to fight for your rights. Please contact us for a free consultation at 877-941-2615 or fill out our convenient online form today.

About the Author

Ken Harrell joined Joye Law Firm in 1994, and has been the managing partner since 2006. With 30 years of experience, he protects the rights of injured South Carolinians, including cases involving workers’ compensation, car accidents, and defective products. Ken also leads the firm’s referral practice, helping to ensure that our clients receive the best possible representation. He is a past president of South Carolina Injured Workers’ Advocates, and has served as the co-chairman of this organization’s legislative affairs committee for 12 years.

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