by Staff Reporter
State Trooper Wins PTSD Lawsuit
An Arizona state trooper has won a precedent-setting court case that affects police officers, firefighters, and other emergency services workers throughout the United States.
On January 20, 2000, Department of Public Safety Officer David D. Mogel killed a shotgun-toting car thief wanted for bank robbery after the suspect attempted to shoot the officer.
Shooting Suspects Part of the Job?
Because of the trauma in taking a human life, Officer Mogel was diagnosed with Posttraumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and could no longer function as a police officer. When he applied for Workers' Compensation benefits, he was denied. The Arizona Department of Public Safety and Workers' Compensation (State of Arizona, DOA Risk Management) claimed that shooting suspects was part of the job, and not an "unexpected" event as required by Arizona law. (continued below, left)
Shootings Are Routine?
If Officer Mogel had lost his case, the decision may have prevented not only police officers, but also firefighters and other emergency workers from collecting Workers' Compensation benefits if injured psychologically on the job.
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Implications of the Mogel PTSD Lawsuit
by Allen R. Kates, MFAW, BCECR
Winning a lawsuit based on a PTSD claim is indeed a major achievement. Too often police officers are ignored or denounced for saying they need help. Sometimes they get it, often they don't.
When they don't get help and are forced to sue their department, the city or Workers' Compensation, then they must find strength within themselves to fight to the end.
Every few weeks I receive a phone call or email from a police officer who is engaged in a battle with the department or with Workers' Comp. They often don't know what to do. The Workers' Comp psychologists say the officers are faking PTSD symptoms, are malingerers, just want a free ride. The officers' psychologists say they have PTSD and can no longer function as police officers, as in David Mogel's situation.
Be Prepared To Fight
The first piece of advice I give officers who contact me is to be prepared for a fight, at a time in your life when all you want is peace, kindness, caring and time to heal, not a battle. Nevertheless, a fight is what you will get.
Your Claim Will Be Denied
First off, if you apply to Workers' Compensation for benefits or attempt to acquire a disability pension based on a PTSD claim, you will likely be denied. You will be denied NOT because you do not have a legitimate claim. You will be denied NOT because you do not have PTSD. You will be denied because the whole issue, for the insurer, is money, money, money.
Nothing Personal, Just Business
For them, "It's nothing personal, just business." Isn't that what the Mafia says?
They Want To Wear You Down
They will deny you benefits because they want to wear you out and wear you down so you will give up the claim. I've never heard of anybody getting benefits the first time they make a claim. In many cases, you will be denied repeatedly until your only recourse is to file a lawsuit like David Mogel did.
Suing Takes Resources
Filing a lawsuit takes resources, financial and emotional, but many attorneys will figure out a way to help you. If you must sue or get representation, be sure to seek out an attorney who has experience dealing with Worker's Compensation. If he or she understands PTSD, all the better. Many attorneys have acquired my book, CopShock, to familiarize themselves with the concepts and solutions.
Do Not Give Up
Another important piece of advice I give officers seeking benefits or who are being forced to sue: DO NOT GIVE UP. That's what they want you to do. But chances are good that you will succeed. The past couple of years, I've heard from several officers who won their cases based on a PTSD disability claim.
Be Ready For Battle
Be ready for battle. Be aware that your life will be examined, that you will be vilified, chastised, criticized, denigrated, defamed, intimidated and belittled. Their purpose is to break you down so you will go away. Your purpose is to stand tall and know that you are right and will succeed.
Speaking of being denigrated and belittled, I'd like to tell you about my experience with the Mogel lawsuit.
What It Was Like To Testify
I was asked to be an expert witness by David Mogel's attorney. My part of the trial was actually a telephone interview with the attorneys from both sides, the Judge and Officer Mogel. Not as dramatic as being in the courtroom and taking the stand, but, as it turned out, dramatic enough.
First, Officer Mogel's attorney asked me to give an overview of how PTSD affects police officers, the symptoms, and whether shooting somebody is part of the job and should not be "rewarded" with a disability pension, as the opposition declared.
I explained that based on my 6 years of research, PTSD is an on-the-job killer, and officers with severe PTSD need counseling. I had compiled an enormous amount of research for CopShock and had interviewed nearly 200 police officers diagnosed with PTSD.
As far as the assertion that shooting someone is part of the job, that is baloney.
Shooting Someone Not Part Of The Job
To prove my point, I quoted facts and figures available on the FBI website showing that a line of duty shooting is extremely rare. http://www.fbi.gov/about-us/cjis/ucr/ucr.
Furthermore, I provided evidence that nobody, no matter how well trained, is prepared emotionally for killing another person, no matter how justified the reason. Cops often think that violence is normal and reacting emotionally is abnormal. In fact, it's the other way round. Violence is abnormal. Feeling something is normal.
Anger, Helplessness, Flashbacks, Depression, Conflict, Alcohol Abuse, Reckless Behavior...
Our reactions to violence can take the form of unexplained anger, anxiety about future encounters, helplessness, hopelessness, intruding thoughts and flashbacks, sleep difficulties, depression, fear of losing control, nightmares, family conflict, alcohol and drug abuse, sexual difficulties, suicidal thinking, reckless behavior, mood swings, inability to concentrate, irritability and many other possible symptoms. We may also react to violence by not appearing to react at all, by being numb and unresponsive. That too is normal for our species.
Cross-Examination--Not A Pretty Sight
Following my testimony, the other side's attorney was then given an opportunity to take a whack at me, to cross-examine. And it wasn't pretty.