Firefighting is a high-risk profession, and one of the most pervasive dangers firefighters face is smoke inhalation. Over time, smoke inhalation can wreak havoc on your lungs and overall health.
What happens when the exposure causes you to become sick? Can you file a workers’ compensation claim in NC?
Firefighters and smoke inhalation workers’ comp claims can be complicated, but that shouldn’t stop you from receiving much-needed benefits.
Workers’ Comp could provide the financial and medical support you need to recover and return to your life-saving duties in North Carolina.
You shouldn’t have to struggle financially after putting your life at risk every day to keep others safe. Let us review your case to discuss the best course of legal action.
Read on to learn what North Carolina law says about firefighters and smoke inhalation workers’ comp, plus tips on securing the benefits you rightfully deserve.
Does Workers’ Comp in NC Cover Firefighters Injured on Duty?
Workers’ Comp covers firefighters injured on duty in North Carolina. These benefits extend not just to full-time firefighters but often to volunteers as well.
The type of injuries covered is broad and encompasses various kinds of physical harm and illnesses you could incur as a firefighter. Some examples include:
- Physical injuries. Workers’ compensation will apply if you’re injured while fighting a fire, rescuing individuals, or even during training exercises. Physical injuries include burns, fractures, and other acute injuries.
- Chemical exposure. In the line of duty, you may be exposed to hazardous materials. You should have coverage for any illness arising from such exposure, such as poisoning or skin conditions.
- Mental health. Workers’ comp might also cover PTSD and other stress-related mental health conditions arising from traumatic incidents during service.
- Repetitive stress injuries. These injuries occur over time due to repetitive motion or strain. For example, back injuries from lifting heavy equipment may fall under this category.
For a workers’ comp claim to be successful, you don’t need to prove that anyone was at fault for your injury. The requirement is simply that the injury or illness is directly related to your duties as a firefighter.
As long as you were not attempting to harm someone (or yourself) or under the influence of alcohol, fault does not matter.
Smoke Inhalation Side Effects
Smoke inhalation is one of the biggest hazards you face as a firefighter.
Not only can it cause immediate respiratory distress, but chronic exposure also has long-term side effects you may not notice until years into your career.
These side effects may include chronic bronchitis, asthma, and even an increased risk of lung cancer.
If you’re experiencing symptoms like persistent cough, wheezing, or shortness of breath, getting a medical evaluation and treatment as soon as possible is crucial.
These conditions may qualify for workers’ comp, especially if they affect your ability to perform your duties effectively.
Timely diagnosis and documentation are essential for a successful claim. You owe it to yourself to find out whether you’re eligible for workers’ comp benefits.
Potential Benefits Firefighters Can Receive Under Workers’ Comp
Medical benefits cover all necessary treatment, from emergency care to follow-up visits and rehabilitation.
Apart from medical treatment, you may also be eligible for wage replacement benefits, which compensate for lost earnings while you cannot work.
Two main earning replacement benefits are temporary total disability (TTD) and permanent partial disability (PPD).
TTD applies when you’re temporarily unable to perform your duties and typically covers 2/3 of your regular salary. PPD applies if you suffer a permanent impairment.
PPD applies if you reach your Maximum Medical Improvement (MMI) but still have an impairment that falls under a schedule of injuries that keeps you from returning to work.
Additionally, vocational rehabilitation services may be available if you can no longer perform your previous firefighting duties. Understanding what you’re entitled to can help you make future decisions.
How to File a Workers’ Comp Claim in North Carolina?
The first step in filing a workers’ comp claim in North Carolina is to report your injury to your employer within 30 days. Do this in writing and keep a copy for your records.
Once you’ve filed the initial claim, you typically have two years from the accident date to file a workers’ compensation claim. However, smoke inhalation claims can be tricky.
You might receive workers’ compensation benefits for other injuries and then find out you’re suffering from smoke inhalation side effects.
In this instance, you might have two years from the date you discovered or should’ve found the injury.
Why Hire a North Carolina Workers’ Comp Lawyer?
Workers’ compensation claims are complex, especially those involving illnesses from smoke inhalation.
Your attorney will help you file a well-documented claim, negotiate with the insurer, and represent you in hearings if necessary.
Legal assistance becomes invaluable in instances where the carrier denies your benefits or when there are disputes about the extent of your injuries.
A lawyer will advocate for your best interests and help you secure the benefits you’re owed.
Contact a North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Attorney
We are also North Carolina State Bar board-certified workers’ compensation attorneys. We know the ins and outs of the North Carolina workers’ compensation system and how best to proceed.
Please get in touch with our office to schedule a consultation to learn more about how we can assist you.