In Pittsburgh, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court is currently faced with a decision that could change the nature of workers' compensation benefits in the state. A police officer and his attorney (not affiliated with this firm) are trying to prove that there is such a thing as an "abnormal" working condition in a police officer's line of work. If the court agrees, the officer would be entitled to workers' compensation benefits.
The police officer considers himself an injured worker. His injuries occurred on a late-night shift in 2006. A person who was characterized as mentally disturbed, dressed head-to-toe in black clothing and apparently attempting to commit suicide jumped in front of the police officer's car.
The vehicle struck the woman, and when the officer went to her aid, she was bleeding from her mouth. These conditions caused the officer to experience post traumatic stress disorder.
A workers' compensation judge awarded the man benefits for a total disability, stating that the disability resulted from the officer being subjected to an abnormal working condition. However, the employer disagreed, and the case was brought before other judges and has made it all the way to the state Supreme Court.
The officer argues that an abnormal working condition consists of any set of circumstances that cannot be foreseen on the job. He claims the incident with the suicidal woman was an unforeseeable situation.
His employer claims that although the officer did react in the appropriate manner, he was not subject to an abnormal working condition because of what is presumed to be the stressful nature of the officer's job. The employer is asking that his workers' compensation claim be denied.
There is a similar precedent in this area that would suggest the high court will not rule in the officer's favor. However, the officer is asking the Supreme Court to break the line of precedent and realize that his was an abnormal working condition. If the high court's ruling is for the officer, this could be a landmark decision in Pennsylvania workers' compensation law.
Source: Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, "State Supreme Court grapples with police benefits," Ben Present, April 23, 2012