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Florida filing supports PTSD cover for first responders


Florida’s chief financial officer and the Florida Department of Financial Services said in court filings that the state’s workers compensation laws allow first responders to receive medical benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder without having an accompanying physical injury.

The CFO and Financial Services Department recently filed an amicus curiae brief with the state’s 1st District Court of Appeal in support of Roger Williams, a retired firefighter in Brevard County whose 2021 claim for PTSD was denied.

The Department of Financial Services argues that the state has two separate laws addressing compensability for PTSD claims, one allowing medical benefits for mental injuries arising out of employment as a first responder and without an accompanying physical injury and another allowing for medical and indemnity benefits for mental injuries arising out of employment that are caused by a specific event such as witnessing a death involving grievous bodily harm of a nature that shocks the conscience.

While Mr. Williams was seeking only medical benefits, an administrative law judge incorrectly concluded that the section referencing medical and indemnity benefits for specific injuries applied to all PTSD claims, according to the amicus brief filed June 16.

What’s more, the judge said he would deny the claim because Mr. Williams failed to demonstrate his PTSD by clear and convincing evidence. The Department of Financial Services said this was also wrong because the law doesn’t require clear and convincing evidence when a claimant is seeking only medical benefits for a mental injury.

Lawmakers in 2007 created statutes authorizing payment of medical benefits for mental injuries not accompanied by a physical injury and allowing medical and indemnity benefits for mental claims accompanied by a physical injury.

After two mass shootings in Florida — the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando in 2016, and the Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland in 2018 — the Legislature revised the law governing indemnity benefits to allow them in cases where a first responder doesn’t suffer a physical injury.

The department said that if the decision of the administrative law judge is allowed to stand, it would “essentially eradicate” the availability of PTSD benefits for first responders.

WorkCompCentral is a sister publication of Business Insurance. More stories here.