First Responders Injured Off The Clock
Are first responders entitled to workers’ compensation benefits when they are injured while providing help in their official capacity while off the clock?
Yes. In a recent case before the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission, a police officer had to fight to get benefits paid to him for an injury that took place when he was off the clock. The off-duty police officer was in an alley behind his home when two assailants pulled a gun on him. In response, he announced that he was a police officer and tried to stop the assailants. The officer was shot multiple times. Thankfully, he was treated and eventually released from care and returned to work. However, his employer took the position that his injury was not work related because he was not on-duty at the time.
The case proceeded to trial and the arbitrator found that the officer was entitled to benefits. The employer still disagreed and refused to pay benefits. They filed an appeal to the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. The Commission noted that as a sworn police officer, he has a statutory duty to apprehend suspects when a criminal offense or breach of peace is committed in his presence, regardless of whether the officer is on-duty or off-duty at the time. When the two assailants pulled a gun on him, he had a duty to announce that he was an officer and try to apprehend the offenders. The Commission held that the injuries he sustained when they shot him multiple times did arise out of and in the course of his employment despite the fact that he was off-duty at the time. The employer was ordered to pay benefits for the time he missed from work, pay for his medical treatment, and permanent partial disability benefits for the work injury.
Our first responders have a duty to act within their professional skills even when they are off-duty. Paramedics will jump in to assist in medical emergencies; police officers have an obligation to apprehend assailants within their district; firemen will often assist in fire and rescue operations even while off-duty. If they sustain injuries while acting within their professional capacity even if they are not on the clock, they should be compensated for it. At Black & Jones, we have the upmost respect and admiration for our first responders and we will fight to make sure they are compensated when injured while protecting and serving our communities.
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