Police officers face a variety of dangers while on duty including fatal and non-fatal injuries. Daily duties put officers at risk for car accidents, physical assaults, accidental shootings, and homicide.
Law Enforcement: A High-Risk Occupation
Police officers, sheriffs, and highway patrol officers are frontline workers with high-risk occupations. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, police officers suffer a high number of fatal and non-fatal injuries related to job duties.
Non-Fatal Accidents and Injuries
Common non-fatal accidents include motor vehicle collisions, falls, overexertion, exposure to hazardous substances, gunshot wounds, and structure fires and explosions. These accidents often result in bruises and contusions; sprains; pulled muscles; torn ligaments; tendonitis; broken bones; and burns. According to the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, police officers are three times more likely to suffer non-fatal on-the-job injuries than all other U.S. workers. Between 2003 and 2014, hospital records show that 669,100 law enforcement officers were treated in emergency rooms for job-related injuries.
Fatal Accidents and Injuries
Common fatal accidents include high-speed vehicle collisions, getting struck by a passing car, physical assaults with lethal weapons, accidental and intentional shootings, and homicide. Since police officers commonly deal with criminals, gang members, and violent offenders, fatality rates are high. Since 1786 when the first known line-of-duty death was reported, over 21,000 law enforcement officers in the United States have died in the line of duty. So far in 2020, there have been 307 officers killed in the line of duty. In 2018, the leading cause of officer deaths was gun violence, accounting for more deaths than traffic accidents and physical assaults combined.
In Illinois, police officers are covered under workers’ compensation, except in the city of Chicago. This is due to special legislation that prohibits police officers and firefighters working in cities with more than 500,000 residents from filing workers’ comp claims under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. Chicago is the only city in Illinois impacted by this legislation. Police officers in other Illinois cities are not affected.
In many cases, a workers’ comp lawyer in Illinois can help injured police officers determine whether they should file a workers’ compensation claim or a third-party claim. When the police officer is also a union member, he or she may be entitled to benefits pursuant to the union contract in addition to workers’ comp benefits.