John Doe - who requested to have his real name withheld for legal reasons - is a veteran firefighter in Southern California. He holds the rank of Battalion Chief having served 31 years with his department. He and his wife of 30 years have two children and a new grandchild, age four. John always planned to work as a firefighter for a full 35 years, retire with a regular service pension and enjoy his retirement with his family.
After years of performing arduous firefighting work on a repetitive basis, John is now paying the price for being a dedicated public servant. He has undergone two neck surgeries to repair herniated discs and recently underwent a complicated and painful lower back surgery that will leave him with limited ability to lift over 20 pounds. He has injured both knees on the job and has now developed significant arthritis that will eventually require total knee replacements.
These are examples of cumulative and continuous trauma. For 60 years, California law has recognized the cumulative effects of the stress and strains of employment on its workers.
In Chief John's case, it's a result of 31 years of wearing turnout gear and equipment (including his helmet) that weighs well over 80 lbs. Wearing that gear while engaged in stair and ladder climbing, heavy lifting and carrying has placed undue stress on his spine and knees, forcing him into an early and unwanted disability retirement.
More importantly, the effects of his cumulative trauma injury will rob Chief John of his golden years with his family.
Some of the power players in employment and in the workers' compensation insurance industry would like to take away or severely limit wear-and-tear cumulative trauma injuries. Their motivation to eliminate these types of claims is plain and simple: to save money by not paying claims.
Imagine getting to the finish line years before your expected retirement date, they're fighting your pension, there is no savings, no safety net and no recognition for your service.
Chief John gave a lifetime to his department. He should now be compensated for everything that was taken from him. We can't let insurers or anyone else take away the safety net for cumulative trauma. Eliminating such claims would be wrong and immoral. Let's work together to ensure that never happens.
Editor's note: This is an excerpt from an article written by CAAA's Public Safety Committee. To read the article in its entirety, click here.