Nebraska Court Awards Paramedic Workers’ Comp Benefits for PTSD

Landmark Nebraska ruling holds that paramedic's PTSD arose from an extraordinary work situation and eligible for permanent partial disability benefit.
By: | May 29, 2024
paramedic stress

In a case of first impression, the Nebraska Workers’ Compensation Court found that a firefighter/paramedic for the City of Papillion was entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for mental injuries he incurred after experiencing a traumatic incident on the job.

The ruling in Timothy J. Gosch vs. City of Papillion, Nebraska, marked the first time the state’s workers’ compensation court interpreted a 2010 amendment to Nebraska’s workers’ compensation statute that allows first responders to claim benefits for mental injuries unaccompanied by any physical injury.

Timothy Gosch alleged he suffered personal injury in the form of post-traumatic stress disorder while employed by Papillion, Nebraska, and filed a claim seeking benefits for his mental injury.

However, the city denied Gosch’s workers’ comp claim. The city alleged that Gosch’s claim was time-barred and that he had failed to provide timely notice of his alleged injury as required.

Court’s Analysis of Gosch’s Claim

In analyzing Gosch’s claim for PTSD, the court first considered whether he was exposed to extraordinary and unusual conditions in his job as a firefighter. The court determined that a particularly gruesome incident Gosch responded to on Jan. 30, 2017 qualified as such a condition.

The incident involved a shotgun suicide attempt, and Gosch provided vivid testimony describing the disturbing scene and his ongoing trauma from witnessing it. His account was supported by coworkers, who testified that the event continued to be discussed years later.

However, the court did not find that a separate incident on Feb. 20, 2022, in which Gosch administered paralytic medications to a car crash victim, rose to the level of extraordinary and unusual. That scenario was considered more routine for Gosch’s occupation.

Causation Between Mental Injury and Employment

Several medical experts, including Gosch’s treating psychologist, provided opinions that concluded that Gosch suffered PTSD as a direct result of experiencing the traumatic January 2017 incident in the course of his employment. Based on this evidence, the court found Gosch demonstrated the necessary causal link between his diagnosed PTSD and the extraordinary work conditions.

Finally, the court evaluated the extent of Gosch’s permanent disability from his work-related PTSD. Gosch’s psychologist opined that he was permanently unable to return to his firefighter job, due to his PTSD symptoms and ongoing inability to handle the mental stress of the position.

After reviewing opinions from vocational rehabilitation experts, the court determined that Gosch sustained a 25% permanent loss of earning power as a result of his compensable mental injury. The court factored in both the medical evidence of Gosch’s inability to return to his previous occupation and the vocational evidence regarding his diminished earning capacity in alternative employment.

The court awarded Gosch permanent partial disability benefits of $309.08 per week for 300 weeks based on his 25% loss of earning power.

In addition to the disability benefits, the court ordered the City of Papillion to pay Gosch’s outstanding medical expenses for treatment of his compensable mental injury. The city is also responsible for covering any future medical care that is reasonably necessary for the injury. &

The R&I Editorial Team can be reached at [email protected].

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