Fire rescue personnel suffer work related injuries from time to time. A mistake doesn’t have to happen for an injury to occur in this line of work. Smoke inhalation, burns, cuts, broken bones and other injuries can be sustained while responding to an emergency call. Worker’s compensation is available to help get the medical attention needed for a healthy recovery.
Firefighters face dangerous situations everyday in their line of work. This can be anything from a small fire to a wildfire. Most recently, Denver area firefighters are fighting wildfires near Fort Collins. Over 300 firefighters were called to the scene to help extinguish this fire. The area in which a wildfire is located in can be treacherous terrain. Trees can fall, exhaustion can occur, the ground can be uneven or have unseen holes, and flames can get out of control. Even with every precaution put in place, an injury can still occur. As an injured firefighter, you have the right to file a Workers Compensation claim.
What is the First Step in Starting a Worker’s Compensation Claim?
The first step in filing a Worker’s Compensation claim is to notify your employer. Talk to your supervisor and ask that you be given an injury report to fill out. Your employer is obligated by law to provide you with a list of two doctors from which you will choose on Doctor. If you employer does not give you a list you may select your own doctor.
The only exception to this is when an injury is so sudden and serious you must get emergency care right away. If that is the case, then notify your employer once things stabilize.
What is the Second Step in Starting a Worker’s Compensation Claim?
Second, it is critical to seek medical attention. At the hospital, explain that the injury occurred while you were in the field responding to an emergency call. This will start the process of filing your claim. The hospital will ask a series of questions to include in their initial report regarding what you were doing and how the accident occurred. Some of the questions they may ask a Firefighter would coincide with the type of emergency call they were responding to, if they had a full squad responding and if all of the Firefighter’s safety gear was worn and worked properly. Questions pertaining specifically to the fire itself as to how involved it was, what type of building it was and what method of putting the flames out was used. They will ask for the circumstances surrounding the injury as well which could include safety precautions taken, response time, proper equipment being available and a proper command center being put in place.
It is very important to remember the sequence of events during the fire emergency call as closely as possible when filling out this paperwork. If you fell, it is important to remember what happened that made you fall, what direction that you fell in and what direction you landed in. The small details are important.
The Worker’s Compensation website for Colorado has a FAQ section to help answer the most commonly asked questions are available here. Another item to keep in mind is that you should keep every receipt for anything you’ve spent out of pocket regarding your injury. Copies of all of these receipts should be made and submitted to the Worker’s Compensation office for reimbursement.
Follow Up Care
Follow up care will be set up following your injury and/or release from the hospital. Firefighters can sustain a wide variety of injuries stemming from severe burns, burnt tracheas, broken bones, paralysis, organ damage and less severe injuries. With some of these injuries being severe, it may take months of rehabilitation and treatment to be able to return to the Firehouse again. A firefighter that has suffered severe burns may require several skin graft procedures and extensive physical therapy upon being released from the hospital. It is important that every procedure is completed and that every physical therapy is attended.
It is possible that breathing treatments may be needed for the rest of your life following an injury pertaining to your lungs. Lung function tests may be a large part of the follow up care process. Follow up care is an important part of both your healing process and your worker’s compensation claim. Not following through with after care may show worker’s compensation that you aren’t really as injured as the reports state.
Worker’s Compensation law can be very confusing. Attorneys are available to help you understand the difficulties that may come along with fighting for your rights as an injured Firefighter. You may ask why you need a lawyer to begin with and think you will be able to handle the claim on your own.