Rights Depend on Type of Employment
Q: What rights and protections do firefighters or police officers (and their families) have if they are hurt on the job?
A: “Historically, employees were placed in a difficult situation when injured on the job, especially if the injury occurred because of their own actions or negligence. They were left without a job and income,” says employee rights attorney, Don D. Sessions, Don D. Sessions Law Corp., Mission Viejo. “Laws have been enacted to protect all workers hurt in the course of their employment. The new laws provide a trade-off of sorts.
“Through the workers’ compensation system, employees cannot sue employers directly for personal injuries with potentially unlimited recovery. In exchange, the law provides the worker with an income as a result of any injury on the job, regardless of fault.
“It doesn’t matter who caused the injury as long as it happened on the job. Even though employees can’t sue their employer, they still can sue third parties for acts of negligence. For example A truck driver hit by a drunken driver might still have an independent claim against the driver and his insurance company.
“In the case of firefighters and police officers, who accept certain risks by the very nature of their employment, they are prevented from suing third parties as a result of acts of negligence. To help offset the higher risk of injuries, state or federal agencies that employ them often provide better fringe benefits than in other occupations.
“It would not be unusual for such workers to have very favorable life insurance coverage to help their families, or enhanced disability or retirement pay.”