Police officers and other law enforcement personnel in North Carolina face the possibility of injury or death in the line of duty every day. When an injury or death occurs, those who have been injured on the job and the survivors of those who have lost their lives in the line of duty have a right to compensation for medical bills, lost income, and more.
North Carolina law provides certain protections when police officers sustain injuries on the job. Because law enforcement officers’ cases are treated differently from civilian workers’ compensation cases, it is easy for some law enforcement personnel to receive less than the full benefits they deserve.
If you or your loved one is dealing with a work-related injury and your employer is disputing your right to benefits, a workers’ compensation attorney can help you understand your legal options and work to obtain all the benefits available by law. The attorneys at Hardison & Cochran have extensive experience handling workers’ compensation claims. We can review your case free of charge and help you determine the appropriate steps to take. If necessary, we will request a hearing and present your case to the North Carolina Industrial Commission, which oversees workers’ comp cases in the state.
Call Hardison & Cochran today at (252) 333-3333 or complete our online contact form. We have offices in Raleigh and six other central and eastern North Carolina cities and will respond to you within 24 hours.
What Job Risks Do Law Enforcement Officers Face?
Police work is dangerous. Law enforcement officers face many risks on the job, including physical assaults, being shot, car accidents, being struck by a moving vehicle, injuries due to physical exertion, falls, and more.
The FBI reports that 118 law enforcement officers were killed in line-of-duty incidents in 2022. The International Association of Chiefs of Police (IACP) says a 12-month national study of 18 law enforcement agencies documented nearly 1,300 reported injuries sustained by officers and nearly 6,000 missed work days.
The FBI says 60 officers died as a result of criminal acts in 2022. Among them:
- 49 were killed by offenders using weapons,
- Eight were killed by the offender’s use of hands, fists, or feet,
- Three were killed with vehicles used as weapons.
Fifty-eight law enforcement officers were killed accidentally while performing their duties. Among them, 35 were killed in motor vehicle crashes. Further:
- 13 were pedestrian officers struck by vehicles.
- Six officers were in an aircraft crash.
- Two officers were killed in falls.
- Two died as a result of a firearm-related incident.
Common Injuries Among Police Officers
The researchers who prepared the IACP’s national study recorded injuries related to law enforcement officers’ performance of their duties, including both on- and off-duty employment. The injuries sustained included:
- 610 sprains, strains, and soft tissue tears
- 189 bruises
- 179 cuts and lacerations
- 90 bloodborne pathogen exposures
- 44 puncture wounds
- 41 broken bones
- 18 chronic injuries (resulting from overuse of one body area over a long period)
- 13 burns
- 12 internal injuries (within the abdominal or chest area)
- Six joint dislocations
- One gunshot wound
- 92 other injuries. Other injuries might include:
- Soreness, pain
- Chemical burns
- Multiple trauma injuries.
More than half of the incidents resulted in days away from work, medical treatment beyond first aid, restricted work duties, transfer to another job, loss of consciousness, or fatal injury.
The average number of workdays lost per incident was approximately 4.5, with 3.5 days of rehabilitation required for each injury.
What Types of Injuries Are Covered Under Workers’ Comp in North Carolina?
Qualified employees in North Carolina, including law enforcement personnel, are eligible for workers’ compensation if they have suffered a disabling injury while on the job or due to conditions arising from their employment (NCGS 97-2(6)).
A police officer in North Carolina performing any act connected to law enforcement at the time of their injury may qualify for workers’ compensation benefits. In a 1992 case, State v. Gaines, 345 N.C. 647, 483 S.E.2d 396 (N.C. 1997), the N.C. Supreme Court ruled that a sworn law enforcement officer is almost never off duty. In that case, in fact, a police officer was murdered while working a second job as a security officer at a motel. The justices noted that the N.C. Industrial Commission had ruled that for the purpose of workers’ compensation benefits, the officer “came to his death as a result of an injury or accident arising out of and in the course of his official duties in his employment as a full-time law enforcement officer.”
An injured employee qualifies for benefits once he or she is out of work for more than seven days due to an occupational injury or illness.
Compensation for Police Officers Injured on Duty
Workers’ compensation benefits available to injured police officers should include payment of all medical bills and other costs for treating work-related injuries. This includes emergency care through hospitalization, medication, outpatient treatment, physical therapy, and vocational rehabilitation.
Workers’ compensation also pays for psychological counseling related to recovery from an eligible injury or for mental health issues such as post-traumatic stress disorder that developed because of job duties.
Workers’ compensation also provides checks to replace lost wages. Sworn law enforcement officers in North Carolina are paid their full salary for up to two years after suffering a disabling injury on the job (NCGS 143-166.14). After two years, if the disability persists, the police officer begins to draw the workers’ compensation wage replacement benefit.
Workers’ compensation also provides the surviving spouse and underage dependents a death benefit if a police officer is killed on the job or dies from an occupational injury within six years of the injury. The benefits consist of payments of two-thirds of the police officer’s weekly wages and up to $10,000 for burial expenses.
Wage replacement benefits paid as a death benefit begin right away and, in most cases, last for 500 weeks (more than 9.5 years) for a spouse and until a dependent child reaches age 18.
Contact A North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Today
The attorneys at Hardison & Cochran proudly stand up for North Carolina law enforcement personnel who have been injured on the job as they seek workers’ compensation benefits. It is not unusual for employers, including local governments, to try to limit workers’ comp payments to injured workers. Three of our firm’s attorneys are North Carolina Board-Certified Specialists in Workers’ Compensation Law. They are ready to seek the maximum benefit for you.
Contact Hardison & Cochran today by calling us at (252) 333-3333 or by using our online form. We can respond within 24 hours and set up a FREE personalized consultation about your case.