According to PTSD United, over 70 percent of Americans have experienced a traumatic event in their lives. Among those who have experienced a life-changing event 20 percent will develop post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD), which is a debilitating condition that causes hopelessness, fear and anger in varying degrees. Police, fire and paramedic personnel are often called to horrific accident scenes and deadly fires. In Washington state, new laws enacted to protect first responders have been put into place. The Department of Labor and Industries can now pay workers’ compensation claims for first responders who suffer from PTSD from their work experiences. As Dustin Dailey, the newest partner at Putnam, Lieb, Potvin & Dailey explains, “before this new law was enacted L&I could only allow PTSD if it was considered to be a result of one traumatic event. Now, L&I can accept PTSD claims that develop over time due to continued exposure to trauma.”
When we relax a little knowing that the professionals have arrived to take over, their job is just beginning and it can be relentless. Our first responders are exposed to multiple traumatic events in their workplace and over time that toll has translated into higher suicide rates than seen in other professions.
Dailey is proud to represent several firefighters and other first responders who suffer from PTSD and are no longer able to do the jobs they once loved. “It is so important to me that we recognize that this community that gives us so much is suffering and needs support,” says Dailey.
Dan Griffey, a legislator representing the 35th District is one of the prime sponsors of the bill. A firefighter himself, he saw firsthand the toll that daily exposure to death and trauma was inflicting on his fellow firefighters. Across the country, laws are being changed to ensure that first responders can get the help they need before it is too late.
“When someone is suffering from PTSD, the last thing they need to deal with is the time and expense of dealing with a L&I appeal,” says Dailey. “We want to help those first responders in our community avoid the exhaustive battle of litigation and get them faster results.” His own experience representing L&I (Labor and Industries) for the Attorney General’s office gives Dailey unique insight and unprecedented understanding of the process. Hiring an attorney experienced in workers’ compensation claims can save time and frustration. “We recommend speaking with us before your claim has been denied,” says Dailey. “We can review a case and quickly determine where there will be issues and make sure that everything is included.” Making sure that the claim includes all potentially necessary authorizations for care can greatly impact a person’s life.
Chris Porter, a Centralia fire fighter was working one night when the call came in for a local house fire. Porter recognized the address immediately because it was in his own neighborhood. By the time firefighters arrived the house was fully engulfed in flames. Three young children died in that house fire and Chris Porter’s life would never be the same. “There is a stigma among first responders that we are the ones who help, we don’t ask for help,” says Porter. When his claim for workers’ compensation was denied he reached out to Dustin Dailey. “Dustin and his staff advocated for me when I was broken,” says Porter.
The L&I process can be extremely complicated and Porter was grateful to have Dustin advocating and interpreting the process for him. “I only half-jokingly told him the first time that we spoke that I hated lawyers,” says Porter. “I know now that, without Dustin, the outcome would have been dramatically different, he literally saved my life.”
Once Putnam, Lieb, Potvin & Dailey were involved, they took the lead and spent over a month locating a psychiatrist to examine Porter and make the PTSD diagnosis. “I received so many calls from Dustin and his staff on their personal cell phones before and after hours just checking in on me to make sure that I was doing okay,” he shares. “I highly recommend calling Dustin before you make a claim to make sure that you are getting the best result.”
Dustin Dailey is a member of the Washington State Association for Justice, which meets with elected officials and advocates for injured workers. He also plans to attend and sponsor the 1st Responder Wellness Conference, which aims to improve the mental health and wellness of first responders, as well as break the silence on these issues. For more information on how they can help you, visit the Putnam, Lieb, Potvin & Dailey website.
Putnam, Lieb, Potvin & Dailey
907 Legion Way SE, Olympia