Though the majority of Americans have been in lockdown or practicing social distancing amid the COVID-19 pandemic, public safety officers continue to be in high demand. They have kept us safe and enforced public health guidelines, and without their commitment to serve the pandemic could have been even more deadly and widespread.
Police officers, firefighters, and emergency medical service personnel are the most common examples of public safety officers. Others include emergency preparedness managers, wildlife marshals and chaplains, correctional facilities guards, parole officers and more. Unfortunately, while carrying out their duties and protecting us, there have been reported cases of officers contracting COVID-19.
So what legal recourse do these officers have? Were they unnecessarily put in harm’s way or are health risks inherent to their jobs?
Thankfully, Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program (PSOB) can help. Created in 1996, the PSOB is a federally-funded program which compensates the families of public safety officers who lose their lives or are catastrophically injured in the line of duty.
PSOB is administered by the U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs, Bureau of Justice Assistance (BJA). And the BJA shed some light on the subject in April 2020 while the virus was on an unfortunately continuous peak.
The BJA states that, “conditions caused by infectious diseases, viruses, and bacteria may be found to be an injury sustained in the line of duty.”
Under the PSOB Act, to establish eligibility for disability — among other benefits — public safety officers must demonstrate contracting COVID-19 or other infectious diseases in the line of duty, when:
Additionally, in the absence of evidence showing a different cause of death, the BJA generally will find that the evidence shows a public safety officer who died while suffering from COVID-19 died as the direct and proximate result of COVID-19.
The good news is that US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) information indicates that the immediate health risk to law enforcement workers continues to remain low when performing daily or routine activities.
That the risk remains is the key issue. And that risk increases during extraordinary times, such as periods of civil unrest and mass protesting, like we have seen in May and June 2020. Since COVID-related illnesses and injuries have largely come into prominence in 2020, this area of disability and insurance law will evolve for years, particularly as we learn more about the virus.
Filing for PSOB benefits is complex because it requires communication with an arm of the federal government and differs from a typical workers’ compensation claim. It is best to hire a law firm that specializes or focuses on representing public safety officers when preparing to file a claim. Furthermore, investigating, litigating and resolving these claims can be a lengthy and sometimes costly process.
That is why PeacockLaw, a.p.c. typically files these injury claims within 48 hours of accepting each case. We exclusively represent public safety officers and are well-versed in your claims process. Our we lead the discussion and the negotiations, which leads to faster and larger insurance coverage payouts.
If you are a public safety officer and have been injured or made ill on the job, attorney Mark Peacock can help you navigate the entire process. Contact us today.
The work and presence of public safety officers are more essential than ever. As difficult as it is to imagine, the COVID-19 pandemic could have been even more deadly and widespread had it not been for their ability to keep us safe and enforce health guidelines.
The United States is still amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a crisis exacerbated by weeks of civil unrest and protests, and public officers are at a heightened risk of exposure.
Police officers, firefighters, emergency medical personnel, corrections officers, parole agents and other professionals who serve the public have specific legal and financial protection they can turn to that is backed by the federal government. This article provides an introduction to the Public Safety Officers’ Benefits Program (PSOB) a federally-funded program which compensates the families of public safety officers who lose their lives or are catastrophically injured in the line of duty.