On November 2, 2022, the First District Court of Appeal of Florida, in Wyatt v. Polk County Board of County Commissioners, ruled that the date of compensable loss to be used to determine benefit eligibility for a first responder PTSD claim under Florida statute 112.1815 was the date that the PTSD led the claimant to quit her job and suffer wage loss, not the date of last exposure to a qualifying trauma.
In this case, an emergency medical technician (EMT) who suffered from PTSD after being exposed to various traumatic events at work between 2016 and June 2018, filed a WC claim under Florida statute 112.1815. The statute was amended effective October 2018, one month before the EMT’s last day at work, to provide that PTSD suffered by a first responder is a compensable occupational disease, eligible for both medical and indemnity benefits. A judge of compensation claims (JCC) concluded that because the claimant’s last traumatic exposure in June 2018 occurred before the amendment became effective in October 2018, she was not entitled to benefits under the statute.
On appeal, the First District Court of Appeal overturned the JCC decision. The court reasoned that the date an employee suffers exposure or contracts a disease is not relevant to determine the date of accident in this context. The court clarified that because Florida statute 112.1815 allows for PTSD to be treated as an occupational disease, the disablement date—the day the employee suffered a loss—should be treated as the date of injury and not the date of last exposure to the disease or qualifying event. Therefore, the court found that the right to compensation under the statute did not accrue until November 2018 when the claimant’s PTSD led her to quit her job and rendered her unable to earn wages, which occurred after the amended statute became effective. Thus, the court ruled, the claimant was entitled to occupational disease indemnity and medical benefits under the 2018 amended version of Florida statute 112.1815.
The court also noted that even if the amended 2018 version of the statute was not applicable, the EMT should be entitled to medical benefits under another provision of the statute enacted in 2007 and currently in effect. This provision allows first responders to receive medical benefits for treating mental or nervous injuries suffered at work. The court indicated that under that provision, the JCC lacked any basis for denying the EMT’s claim for medical benefits regardless of whether the 2018 amendment applied.
This case could be appealed. NCCI will monitor further developments.
For more information on other cases monitored by NCCI’s Legal Division, visit previous Court Case Updates and
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