New Law Tackles Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder
Senate Bill (SB) 542, which makes post-traumatic stress disorder a "presumptive" work-related injury for most peace officers and firefighters, was unanimously passed by both the state Assembly and Senate without a single "no" vote, and was recently signed in to law by Governor Gavin Newsom. California is now the seventh state in the country to pass such a law.
Introduced by Senator Harry Stern (D-Canoga Park), SB 542 will take effect on January 1, 2020 and applies to injuries occurring on or after that date. It provides for Labor Code Section 3212.15, which allows most firefighters and police officers who develop or manifest an emotional injury with the diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder to obtain the full range of workers' compensation benefits. The public policy behind the bill was to expedite an acceptance of injury arising out of and in the course of employment, so that those suffering can get expeditious medical care. Medical research shows that recoveries can be significantly improved with prompt medical care for this significant condition.
"The legislature is finally recognizing the enormous risks and dangers peace officers and firefighters face in the course of their duties and the toll it takes on the men and women who risk their lives in service of the community," says Steve Scardino, partner in the law firm of Gordon, Edelstein, Krepack, Grant, Felton & Goldstein, LLP (GEK).
As Stern sees it, "Our nation has lost more public safety officers to suicide than in the line of duty—when just one life cut short is itself too many. California is making clear that post-traumatic stress is not a disorder to be stigmatized. These injuries can be healed."
GEK partner Adam Dombchik feels that the passing of SB 542 can really make a difference for those suffering from this condition. "This law speaks to public safety officers who are suffering, and says it is okay to reach out and seek assistance if you are suffering from this condition, and we as a state support you and will help facilitate you getting the care and benefits you deserve."
As with all of the legal presumptions, there are specific requirements for service and job duties that must be proven to apply the law to an injury claim. And there will certainly be litigation surrounding the new law as employers and their insurance agents work to avoid and limit its application.
GEK attorneys have decades of experience with local safety and the application of the presumption laws. We look forward to utilizing this new law on behalf of our clients. If you are a peace officer or firefighter experiencing issues or have questions regarding this new legislation, including a referral to confidential treatment resources, contact us at 213-739-7000 or click here for a free consultation.