As most firefighters, police, corrections and probation officers are now aware, the protections afforded by F.S. 112.18, more popularly known as the “Heart/Lung” Bill, provide important medical benefits for officers who develop heart disease or hypertension. This law, which has been codified in Florida Statutes since the late 1960’s, and amended to include all law enforcement and correctional officers in 2002, also provides significant monetary benefits that many officers are only recently beginning to understand and collect. Payouts, which are non-taxable, can be quite substantial, and do not necessarily involve the settlement of an officer’s case.
The benefits of the “Heart/Lung” Bill are paid largely through the application to the workers’ compensation act. As a consequence, lost wages attributable to hypertension and heart disease claims should be paid as though the condition were a work-related injury. Additionally, however, there is a classification of benefits called impairment benefits which are payable even where there are no demonstrable lost wages. These are important, and potentially substantial, benefits that many agencies have failed to pay appropriately.
Impairment benefits are found in F.S. 440.15(3) in the current version of the workers’ compensation act. The section provides for specific monetary payments for work related injuries (including heart and hypertension claims) even though the employee has returned to work making the same wage. While there are certain restrictions and rules related to application, most “Heart/Lung” claims result in non-taxable monetary benefits being paid without settlement of the entire case. Many cases have resulted in substantial payments (sometimes more than $100,000.00), to the officer with the claim.
Impairment benefits have been payable since 1994. In any case where an eligible employee is receiving medical care under the “Heart/Lung” Bill, for a claim made after 1994, the payment of impairment benefits must be investigated to ensure that appropriate compensation has been provided. This is also true for retired officers. Unions representing firefighters, police, corrections and probations officers have enlisted the support of the law firm of Bichler Law to investigate these claims, who stand ready to answer any questions you may have.
Bichler, Clelland, Oliver, Kelley, Hastings, Longo, Spears & Parrish, PLLC
807 West Morse Boulevard
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