What's Hot in Workers' Comp
It is the disability, not the disease, that determines compensability.
Judge of Compensation Claims stresses that under the occupational disease statutory provision, it is the disability, not the disease, that determines compensability.
Andrew Wilkes v. Palm Beach County Fire Rescue and Preferred Government Claims Solutions, OJCC# 19-019645, West Palm Beach District, JCC Stephenson; Decision Date Apr. 23, 2020
The claimant, a firefighter EMT for Palm Beach Fire Rescue, was called to assist with the drowning death of a young boy in 2015. At the time, he believed that the victim looked like his son.
In the spring of 2019, the claimant went diving with friends, which brought back the drowning incident. In May, he woke up one night in a sweat with his heart racing after dreaming that he was the diver pulling his own son out of the water. He then sought care on his own for what he thought might be ADHD, as he was having difficulty focusing. He underwent a PTSD assessment on May 30, 2019, and was formally diagnosed with PTSD, which he reported to the employer in June 2019.
The employer contended that the qualifying event—the drowning in 2015—occurred prior to the statutory amendment in 2018 that now provides compensability of PTSD without an accompanying physical injury. The employer also asserted that the claimant failed to provide notice within 52 weeks of the qualifying event.
The claimant’s IME physician testified that the triggering event was the drowning incident in 2015 and that this event was the major contributing cause of the claimant’s PTSD.
Fla. Stat. 112.1815(5)(d) states: “The time for notice of injury or death in cases of compensable post-traumatic stress disorder under this subsection is the same as in s. 440.151(6) and is measured from one of the qualifying events listed in subparagraph (a)2, or the manifestation of the disorder, whichever is later. A claim under this subsection must be properly noticed within 52 weeks after the qualifying event.”
Fla. Stat. 440.151(6) deals with occupational diseases and requires that notice be provided within 90 days. The judge of compensation claims held that the claimant’s manifestation occurred in May 2019, after the effective date of the amendment. The judge also analyzed the occupational disease statutory provision and pointed out that it is the disability, not the disease, that determines compensability.
Judge Stephenson found that the claimant met the clear and convincing burden of proof, that he suffered PTSD by a qualifying event with a disability date of May 30, 2019, and that notice was timely. Compensability was granted.
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