South Carolina House Passes Expanded Workers Comp Bill for Police Officers with Work-Related Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Police officers suffer a great deal of mental and emotional stress in the course of their jobs, and now a bill passed by the South Carolina House of Representatives will expand workers comp help to support officers with post-traumatic stress disorder.
The bill, passed Wednesday, January 15th, was inspired by the case of Brandon Bentley, a police officer from Spartanburg, SC. While working for the Spartanburg County Sheriff’s Department in 2009, Bentley shot and killed a suspect. Bentley was unable to return to work after the shooting because of the mental strain the event caused. He reportedly attempted suicide at least twice because of depression related to post-traumatic stress disorder.
However, the state Supreme Court ruled that Bentley was ineligible for workers comp benefits, because at the time South Carolina workers comp law stated that awards could only go to applicants whose injuries resulted from “extraordinary and unusual” events at their jobs. The court ruled that Bentley’s situation was not unusual for a police officer.
Representative Tommy Pope (R-York) proposed the bill last year to exempt law enforcement from the “extraordinary and usual” standard for workers comp benefits. Officers involved in “the use of deadly force on duty” often suffered extraordinary mental and emotional stress because of the event, Pope argued.
“Quit giving them awards and quit waving at t hem in the balcony and do some small thing to help them,” Pope said on the House floor. His colleagues responded by passing the new workers comp legislation 80-32.
The bill has passed a third reading and has been sent to the Senate for consideration.
Work-Related Stress and Workers Comp in South Carolina
When most people think of workers compensation, they think of financial support for a worker who sustained a physical injury. Miners, cleaners, and builders often file for workers compensation for on-the-job physical injury. However, mental and emotional stress can also be cause to file a workers compensation claim. Mental illnesses such as depression or anxiety can be triggered by severe trauma at work, such as violent assault or armed robbery. Post-traumatic stress disorder can be so disabling that a worker may not be able to return to work for several months.
Any full-time employee (working for an employer with four or more employees) who has an employment related injury and needs medical attention, including psychiatric attention should be covered under workers comp insurance
The employee MUST notify his or her employer within 90 days of the injury or risk losing the right to benefits under workers compensation. (It is recommended that you record details of your accident and to whom you reported it.)
Workers’ comp insurance benefits to assist the injured employee include:
- Medical treatment and other medical expenses (gas mileage, public transportation costs)
- Lost wages: 2/3 of an employee’s wages will be paid out after a seven-day waiting period
- Compensation for a permanent loss: blindness, loss of limb
- Death benefits to spouse and dependents
The Strom Law Firm Can Help with Workers Comp Claims for Mental or Emotional Stress
The workers comp lawyers at The Strom Law Firm, LLC proudly seek justice on behalf of employees injured or killed on the job who work for private companies, as well as employees working for local county, city, and state government. Receiving benefits for work related stress can be difficult. You need an attorney who will fight with you to the end. Give us a call today 803.252.4800 for a free workers comp case review.