Las Vegas Shooting Police Officers Denied Workers’ Compensation Claims
The mass shooting incident at a concert in Las Vegas a few months ago is one that will not be easily forgotten. While the shooting was transpiring, several off-duty California police officers took decisive action and rushed to save lives during the deadly rampage. Some Southern California law enforcement officers who risked their own lives to save others while off-duty were left wounded. While they were praised for their heroism, when they returned home, their workers’ compensation claims were denied.
These wounded officers filed for public-employee benefits to cover the long-term medical care much-needed to recover from the trauma. But this resulted in local cities and counties debating whether these heroic law enforcement officers are entitled to receive any incentive of the sort. These cops who were off-duty at the time chose to intervene in such a deadly situation even though it was an out-of-state emergency.
California Labor Code
According to California labor code, the public agencies must pay benefits to off-duty officers injured while they are involved in the protection or preservation of life, property, or the preservation of peace anywhere in the state. It fails to make any mention of out-of-state incidents. Some attorneys believe that lawmakers should fix this problem. Others believe that preservation of life should not leave any restrictions on the officer’s location at the time of the incident.
The Association of Orange County Deputy Sheriffs stated: “Where the law is vague, the legislature has instructed the courts to liberally construe workers’ compensation statutes in favor of injured workers.” However, Orange County rejected workers’ compensation claims from four sheriff’s deputies injured in the shooting. This action has only made way for a legal battle in court that could set a standard for outcomes on the matter affecting several counties in Southern California.
Leon Page, an Orange County councilman, stated that the claims would not have been rejected if the county believed that the state’s code sided with those seeking compensation. He also went on to state that ruling out such compensation is only fair as per the law. He appealed that there is no ill-will, and there was absolutely no other option.
“The statute does not allow counties to cover off-duty conduct outside of states,” Orange County Supervisor Todd Spitzer said, expressing a view shared by county lawyers. “These police officers went into their instinctive training mode… and I don’t think they should be punished because they trusted their instincts. But it requires a legislative fix to the statute to extend workers’ benefits for out-of-state conduct.”
Local work injury lawyers have raised their condemnation against Orange County’s interpretation of state law. And the union representing Orange County’s sheriff’s deputies has said that if the county denied its members’ claims, the agency would be forsaking officers who were acting under their department’s training.
There are certain job fields where you can be called to duty even when you are technically off the clock such as police officers, doctors and social workers. These police officers at the Vegas concert were not on duty but stopped to render aid and serve their communities while getting physically injured trying to protect people. Psychological trauma is also another outcome suffered by these officers as a result of the shooting.
The compensation claims by two deputies in Los Angeles who were also injured during the Las Vegas massacre are being considered by the Los Angeles County. Officials acknowledged that they had no policy on how to handle such requests and said they expect the issue will result in litigation.
The Way Forward
If the officer’s workers’ compensation claims are approved, the taxpayers of California would be obliged to recover their medical bills. The officers could be granted paid time off and an early retirement of disability. If the officers claim injuries related to PTSD suffered during the shooting – it could result in additional filings.
This incident has opened up a whole discussion on when workers can and cannot file for workers’ compensation. If officers can claim compensation from getting hurt on the job while in their home state, it is only logical to extend the same rule while they perform their duties outside of the state as well. In case of denial of workers’ compensation claims and similar situation, a qualified injury lawyer is of utmost importance to help recover a deserving compensation.