For a free evaluation of your case

Six months after the Florida Legislature deemed post-traumatic stress disorder a workplace injury, and just days before the law takes effect, state regulators are still grappling with the essence of the issue: What horrible scenes qualify a first responder for compensation?

Read More

DEPARTMENT OF FINANCIAL SERVICES
Division of Workers’ Compensation
RULE NO.: RULE TITLE:
69L-3.009 Injuries that Qualify as Grievous Bodily Harm of a Nature that Shocks the Conscience

Read More

The post-settlement process can be complex, especially when it comes to medical care for injured parties and their families. Finding a reliable team of people to make the process seamless is key

Listen Now

Environmental sampling at ops center over; wait for results begins.
news-journalonline.com

Read More

A former police officer suffering from PTSD after being a first responder to the Pulse shooting still doesn't have the benefits he was told he'd receive.
Emerald Morrow

Read More

First responders who were on the scene at Pulse shared their consequent struggles with post-traumatic stress disorder at an event co-hosted by ProPublica, 90.7 WMFE and the Orlando Public Library.
Abe Aboraya

Read More

“My head’s still not right,” said one paramedic who responded to the Pulse nightclub shooting two years ago. He and some other responders say their departments haven’t given them the help they need.
Abe Aboraya

Read More

News 6 investigator Mike Hofeld joins the program to talk about the historic passage of a bill that allows first responders to get workers compensation benefits if they're diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Justin Warmoth

Read More

The Florida House of Representatives on Monday gave final approval to a bill that would allow first responders to claim post-traumatic stress disorder as a compensable condition for workers’ compensation.

Read More

A long-gestating proposal to grant Florida first responders access to workers’ compensation benefits for post-traumatic stress disorder has gained new momentum in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting in Parkland last month.

Read More

Like many states, Florida does not provide lost wages to first responders disabled with PTSD. A bill that would change that is now gaining momentum after 17 people were killed at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School last month.
Abe Aboraya

Read More

A state senator has heeded calls to help Florida's undocumented workers after news stories spotlighted their plight after work injuries.

Read More

Florida business leaders are saying “told you so” after the Office of Judges of Compensation Claims reported that claimants’ attorney fees increased 36% in the latest fiscal year.

Read More

An Orlando claimants’ attorney said he argued a “novel” legal theory Monday before a judge of compensation claims, positing that a police officer with PTSD qualified for lost wages because the physical injury of hypertension accompanied his mental injury.

Read More

Posttraumatic Stress Disorder and Cardiovascular Disease

Read More

A former Orlando police officer says the city of Orlando and the police department harassed him after he came forward with post-traumatic stress disorder after the Pulse nightclub shooting.
News 13 Florida

Read More

State Chief Financial Officer Jimmy Patronis, who is also Florida’s fire marshal, is backing cancer and PTSD presumption legislation for first responders, WFLA-News Channel 8 reported.

Read More

A parade of tearful first responders, spouses and survivors who were prepared to testify against a PTSD presumption bill reversed course Tuesday after the sponsoring senator dropped a set of qualifying conditions.

Read More

An Orlando firefighter who responded to the Pulse Nightclub shooting is the second first responder to file a claim challenging a state law that generally bars claims for mental injuries, while advocates continue to pressure state lawmakers to expand benefits for first responders who suffer PTSD.

Read More

The Senate Banking and Insurance Committee next week will discuss legislation that would award first responders indemnity benefits for mental-mental claims for injuries such as post-traumatic stress disorder.

Read More

Mental trauma suffered by a Virginia state trooper who came across a mutilated body that had been dragged by a car for nearly a mile is not compensable because the incident was not unusual for a law enforcement officer, a state appellate court ruled.

Read More

Florida Democrats have introduced dueling bills that would allow first responders to receive workers' compensation benefits in mental-mental claims for injuries such as PTSD, but the measures have differing evidentiary standards.

Read More

Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal ruled that a single elevated blood pressure reading noted in a police officer’s preemployment physical examination did not constitute evidence of a hypertensive condition.

Read More

A former Orlando, Florida, police officer who developed post-traumatic stress disorder after recovering bodies from the Pulse nightclub shooting spree in June 2016 is contemplating a negligence suit because the city won’t agree to workers’ compensation benefits, his attorney said.

Read More

Looking out for others is part of the job for firefighters — but someone has to look after the heroes who are so busy taking care of everyone else.
Caitlin Doornbos

Read More

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. (WCTV) -- Tallahassee firefighters working at Fire Station 7 are being temporarily housed at Fire Station 9 following concerns of mold.
Mariel Carbone

Read More

ORLANDO, Florida — Most states are racing to the bottom on providing adequate workers’ compensation benefits, but Florida has a unique Constitution that prevents legislative overreach on reducing comp awards, a national expert said here Tuesday.

Read More

The Police Pension Board for the City of Orlando approved a disability retirement for a 37-year-old officer diagnosed with post-truamatic stress syndrome, a decision that the officer's attorney called "unprecedented"
workcompcentral

Read More

"Just because you can't see his injuries does not mean they are not there"
David Harris

Read More

Jessica Realin in studio.
(Podcast)

Listen Now

ORLANDO, Fla. - An Orlando police officer who responded to the shooting massacre at Pulse Nightclub last year has been granted early-retirement benefits after being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Steven Yablonski

Read More

The Orlando Police Pension Board granted early retirement benefits to an officer diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the Pulse nightclub massacre during an emotional hearing Thursday.
LEO Affairs

Read More

Russian Troubles for President Trump, plus other news sources, Five Minute Professor and much more.
(Podcast)

Listen Now

ORLANDO, Fla. - A first responder who said he developed post-traumatic stress disorder after the Pulse terror attack will be able to get a disability pension following a months-long battle.
Cuthbert Langley

Read More

ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - An Orlando Police Officer diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder will be allowed to retire early after a decision Thursday by the City of Orlando’s Police Pension Board.
Dana Jay

Read More

UPDATE: The Orlando Pension Board has granted full permanent disability to Orlando Police officer diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder.
Gene Wexler

Read More

The Orlando Police Pension Board voted to give officer Gerry Realin a disability pension.
Gene Wexler

Read More

The Orlando first responder who has battled his department for months after being diagnosed with PTSD has received a disability pension.
Christopher Brennan

Read More

An Orlando Police officer diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after responding to the Pulse massacre was granted a disability pension by the city board Thursday.
Monivette Cordeiro

Read More

ORLANDO -- During an emotional hearing Thursday at Orlando City Hall, a pension board granted permanent disability benefits to a former Orlando Police officer diagnosed with PTSD after the Pulse shooting.
News 13 Florida

Read More

ORLANDO, Fla. — An officer diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the Pulse nightclub mass shooting was given a full disability pension on Thursday.
WESH 2

Read More

Despite staunch opposition from the city, the Orlando Police Pension Board on Thursday granted early retirement benefits to an officer diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after the Pulse nightclub massacre.
David Harris

Read More

ORLANDO, Fla. - The Orlando Police Department Pension Board granted the early retirement and pension for an officer diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after he was assigned to carry bodies out of Pulse nightclub.
Emilee Speck

Read More

ORLANDO, Fla. - Orlando Police Department first responder Gerry Realin has been waiting for more than a year to learn if his diagnosis of post-traumatic stress disorder will be enough to convince the pension board to grant him full pension disability.
Mike Holfeld

Read More

Orlando police officer Gerry Realin, 37, was a first responder assigned to remove bodies from the Pulse nightclub following the shooting that left 49 dead
DAILYMAIL.COM

Read More

ORLANDO, Fla. - ​One year after the tragic Pulse nightclub shooting OPD first responder Gerry Realin has been deemed “permanently and totally disabled” by an independent psychiatrist assigned by the Orlando Police Pension Board.
Mike Holfeld

Read More

Florida’s 1st District Court of Appeal this week ruled that an injured worker was wrongfully deprived of an opportunity to create a record for establishing a constitutional challenge to the state’s statutory cap on weekly disability benefits.

Read More

Rates of PTSD in firefighters may be heightened more so than in any other professions. See, many people will experience a potentially traumatic event at some poit in their life. But just because you have experienced a traumatic event does not mean that you will go on to develop PTSD. However, people who have experienced multiple traumatic events have been found to be at greater risk for developing PTSD.

Read More

When William Duesler joined Tamarac Fire Rescue 14 years ago, experienced firefighters used to hang scorched helmets on the wall with pride. They didn't know that this might be killing them.
ANDREA JANUTA

Read More

One year ago this week, Orlando police Officer Gerry Realin spent four hours removing dead bodies from Pulse Nightclub. Officers covered the 49 victims' bodies with white sheets. They used Sharpie markers to tally up the dead.
ANDREA JANUTA

Read More

Tests have shown fires at homes filled with items made from modern-day synthetic materials burn hotter and faster than homes filled with the natural construction materials used decades ago.
Daniela Leon

Read More

Appellate Court Says Ratings Firm and Regulators Did Not Violate Sunshine Law

Read More

Lawmakers Ironing Out Compromise Comp Reforms as Clock Ticks

Read More

A Casper firefighter died Saturday night after an extended battle with pancreatic cancer.
Elise Schmelzer

Read More

As most readers of my previous columns will recall, my firm represents first responders throughout Florida with work-related disability claims.

Read More

Florida Professional Firefighters News and Information from In and Around the 8th District brought to you by DVP Bellamy
DVP Bellamy

Read More

Committee Passes Bill to Award Indemnity, Death Benefits to First Responders With PTSD

Read More

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. - A bill offering workers compensation benefits for first responders diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder was approved by the state Senate’s banking and insurance subcommittee Monday.
Mike Holfeld

Read More

The wife of an Orlando police officer suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder gave emotional testimony Monday, urging lawmakers to support a bill that would offer first responders with PTSD full workers’ compensation benefits.
DVP Bellamy

Read More

GOP-Led Panel Bucks Business, Passes Comp Reform Bill

Read More

Backlog of Fee Petitions Drives Up Payments to Workers' Attorneys by 26%

Read More

House Panel Revising Bill That Would Cut Comp Costs by Nearly $200 Million a Year

Read More

Firefighting is widely recognized as a hazardous occupation. In particular, fire scenes are unpredictable and dangerous environments characterized by loud noise, high temperatures, flames, smoke with gaseous and particulate toxicants, and potential structural instability of affected buildings, among other hazards

Read More

Fire Simulation and Cardiovascular Health in Firefighters

Read More

Payment of Vacation, Sick Time Isn't 'Earned' Income for Worker Collecting Impairment Benefits

Read More

FRANKFORT - For more than a week, State Rep. Adam Koenig, R-Erlanger, has been fielding calls and emails from first-responders asking him why he sponsored a bill that would strip them of their workers’ compensation benefits.
Daniel Desrochers

Read More

“For police officers like Realin, Delgado, and other embattled cops and soldiers, PTSD is not something they claimed. Rather, through no fault of their own, it claimed them…”
Stephen Owsinski

Read More

The Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting catastrophe took place on December 14, 2012. Shortly, news reports appeared that surviving workers could not get mental health counseling benefits through workers’ compensation. Connecticut is one of the states that bar all or almost all workers’ comp claims for work-induced mental stress if no physical injury has occurred. Left unmentioned in the media, including in the insurance media, that even where so-called “mentalmental,” as opposed to “physical-mental” claims are allowed, being awarded benefits can be difficult.

Read More

Ohio's largest police union wants the Bureau of Workers Compensation to cover more claims for post-traumatic stress disorder in first responders.
KAREN KASLER

Read More

Bills to provide a PTSD presumption for first responders and to shield the names of claimants from the public — especially attorneys — were introduced Tuesday on the opening day of the Florida Legislature’s 2017 session.

Read More

An Orlando police officer diagnosed with Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder after the Pulse shooting has been ordered back to work.
ABE ABORAYA

Read More

ORLANDO, Fla. - For the second straight day, Orlando police Officer Gerry Realin was ordered back to work to assist in a new bike safety education program with a hard line warning that he would be guilty of insubordination if he didn’t show up.
Mike Holfeld

Read More

Gerry Realin can’t watch much TV.
The Orlando police officer sticks to mostly cartoons with his kids and fishing shows. He doesn’t want to watch anything that may trigger memories of removing the bodies inside Pulse nightclub. He’s been diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder and has been out of work since shortly after the June 12 massacre that killed 49 people and injured at least 68 others. David Harris

Read More

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY, Fla. - Looking back, Leslie Dangerfield said the signals were subtle, but as the years went by her husband, Indian River County fire Battalion Chief David Dangerfield, was being tormented by post-traumatic stress disorder. Mike Holfeld

Read More

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - First responders who are fighting post-traumatic stress disorder on the job are one step closer to getting the same benefits as police officers and firefighters who get physically injured. Field Sutton

Read More

Democratic State Senator Victor Torres filed a bill Tuesday to allow first responders to get worker’s compensation coverage for post-traumatic stress disorder. Abe Aboraya

Read More

Post-traumatic stress disorder among emergency first responders in Florida would be compensable, even if not accompanied by a physical injury, under legislation introduced by Sen. Keith Perry, R-Gainesville.

Read More

Tallahassee, FL (WorkersCompensation.com) - All 50 states have some version of an open-meeting law, or what is colloquially known as a Sunshine Law. These laws require government entities to allow public access to their meetings. There are some exceptions such as personnel matters, attorney consultations etc., but as a general rule, most proceedings need to be open to the public and sufficient notice of the proceeding needs to be provided. John Gerboth

Read More

BUFFALO, N.Y. – For most people, cortisol, the vital hormone that controls stress, increases when they wake up. It’s the body’s way of preparing us for the day. UB NEWS CENTER

Read More

First responders who get post-traumatic stress disorder on the job may soon be eligible for more workers compensation benefits. Abe Aboraya

Read More

Wife of Pulse first responder: It needs to happen now Mike Holfeld

Read More

On 12 June, America rocked by a bloody attack on a nightclub in Orlando. In Pulse, known as a night club for gay, shoot a gunman around acting in his own words on behalf of Islamic State. There are 49 people in the three-hour attack, for so long before a SWAT team finally struck the offender. David Hammelburg

Read More

Changing the PTSD law WKMG ClickOrlando

Read More

ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - The wife of an Orlando police officer is lobbying for changes that could help first responders who deal with the emotional demands of the job. Dana Jay

Read More

COCOA, Fla. - When the call “vehicle-pedestrian” came over the Cocoa Fire Department’s emergency radio last July, it was a call Josh Vandegrift had handled hundreds of times before. Mike Holfeld

Read More

In the workers comp system, employees agree not to sue when they get hurt and their bosses agree to pay medical bills and lost wages. German Chancellor Otto von Bismark thought it would humanize the industrial revolution. By JIM ASH

Read More

The Florida Division of Workers' Compensation will hold a public hearing Dec. 6 on proposed amendements to its rule on expert medical advisers - rules that claimants' and defense attorneys alike call "awful" and want repealed.

Read More

In tonight's cover story we delve deeper into the firefighter-PTSD connection. Statistically, the numbers are shocking, more than double the number of suicides compared to in-the-line-of-duty deaths. But for most, the realization of the need for help comes too late. We have exclusive details on one firefighter who gave a final call to action before he died -- begging the world not to let another firefighter fall. KATHARIN CZINK DINA BAIR

Read More

Florida's 1st District Court of Appeal on Wednesday ruled that the state's statutory 104-week cap on temporary partial disability benefits cannot cut off the benefit payments for a worker who has not yet attained maximum medical improvement.

Read More

ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - When we call police and firefighters for help, they come to the rescue. But some officers are finding the State of Florida isn’t returning the favor when it comes to their mental health. Dana Jay

Read More

Unlevel the Playing Field? by Sherri Okamoto is in WorkCompCentral's Special Report this month. Our Managing Partner, Geoffrey Bichler, is quoted in the article while discussing Miles v. City of Edgewater and the current constitutional battles going on in our judicial system regarding Worker's Compensation. You can read the full article on pages seven & eight.

Read More

It is an honor and a privilege to have the opportunity to serve as Chair of the Workers’ Compensation Section of the Florida Bar for 2016 to 2017. I have been a member of the Executive Council for quite some time, and I have enjoyed my association with those many leaders and individuals who have done so much for the Workers’ Compensation Section for many years.

Read More

ORLANDO, Fla. (WOFL FOX 35) - When we call police and firefighters for help, they come to the rescue. But some officers are finding the State of Florida isn’t returning the favor when it comes to their mental health. Rebecca Harrington

Read More

Law enforcement officers who heeded their call to duty at the horrific scene at Pulse nightclub on June 12 are suffering from the state law that does not allow them to seek lost wages for mental health diagnoses. Adam Manno

Read More

ORLANDO, Fla. — The sound of a ringing iPhone makes Omar Delgado sweat and freeze in place. His heart pounds. He closes his eyes to fight back the ghastly images that no one should ever have to see. Frances Robles

Read More

INDIAN RIVER COUNTY — The veteran firefighter who committed suicide Saturday aggressively fought post-traumatic stress disorder for years, his father said. KLamaur Stancil

Read More

ORLANDO, Fla. - Tell a first responder his mental anguish doesn’t meet the threshold for paid leave and then talk to Orlando police Officer Gerry Realin. KLamaur Stancil

Read More

ORLANDO, Fla. - A move to provide better worker's compensation coverage for first responders living with post-traumatic stress disorder might find some traction in Tallahassee next year. WFTV

Read More

As a member of the Orlando Police Department Hazmat team, Gerry Realin was dispatched to deal with the aftermath and cleanup of the Pulse nightclub shooting in June — and he hasn’t recovered from what he saw there since.

Read More

Florida’s extraordinary tradition of open government is founded on the simple but essential concept that the people have a right to know how and why the government makes decisions on their behalf. After all, it’s our government. Barbara Petersen

Read More

A Pulse nightclub shooting first responder who is worried about losing his job because of his PTSD may have his worries somewhat eased after a push to change Florida law. CHRISTOPHER BRENNAN

Read More

ORLANDO, Fla. —Jessica Realin said her husband, Gerry Realin, used to be happy-go-lucky, but that all changed three months ago. Bob Kealing

Read More

ORLANDO -- The wife of an Orlando Police officer said her husband has regressed since being diagnosed with post-traumatic stress disorder after working the Pulse nightclub shooting more than three months ago. News 13

Read More

Gerry Realin spent four hours with the dead inside of Pulse Night Club. News 13

Read More

The NEWS AND FOUR-FORTY REPORT is published by The Florida Bar Worker's Compensation Section

Read More

One of the nation’s foremost authorities on workers’ compensation predicts that Florida — already facing a huge proposed rate increase over adverse court decisions — will be hit with new court rulings declaring more of its provisions unconstitutional.

Read More

Gerry Realin helped pull 49 bodies out of the club June 12. That night has haunted him and made him unable to work. NICO LANG

Read More

ORANGE COUNTY, Fla. - First responder Gerry Realin worked nearly round-the-clock after the Pulse terror attack on June 12. But now, because of the PTSD that followed that tragic night, his family could lose everything, Realin’s wife said. WFTV

Read More

City says medical coverage issued 'in error' Mike Holfeld

Read More

Sometimes the smell comes back to Officer Gerry Realin. He can't describe it, but he knows it when it hits him. David Harris

Read More

ORLANDO, Fla. - Officer Gerry Realin was a microbiologist, a researcher, who says he turned to law enforcement after seeing the movie “The Rock." Mike Holfeld

Read More

Removing the bodies NEWS 6

Read More

EDGEWATER, Fla. — The Edgewater City Council has stripped the health benefits of police officers who were hurt in the line of duty. WFTV

Read More

EDGEWATER - After several months fighting with the city over his police pension, a former Edgewater police officer injured on the job had that pension approved in June. WFTV

Read More

Lawyers at the Maitland law firm of Bichler, Oliver, Longo & Fox are celebrating a big win today in a closely watched workers’ compensation case before the Florida Supreme Court. Frances McMorris

Read More

In this case, it appears the city of St. Petersburg may get a hefty legal bill, and the state of Florida could see its business-friendly workers' compensation laws blown to bits. John Romano

Read More

Florida’s highest court has struck down as unconstitutional a portion of the state workers' compensation law in the case of a former St. Petersburg firefighter. Frances McMorris

Read More

Florida's business community and employee advocates are expressing alarm at a proposed 17.1 percent rate hike for what employers pay to cover workers' compensation insurance. Allison Shirk

Read More

At 33, former Edgewater police sergeant Chris DeRosa's law enforcement career ended because of on-the-job injuries from nearly three years earlier that made him unfit for duty. Allison Shirk

Read More

President Obama honored 13 law enforcement officers with the Public Safety Medal of Valor on Monday. EYDER PERALTA

Read More

TALLAHASSEE — An appeals court on Wednesday ruled unconstitutional a state law that prohibited an Edgewater police officer who said she was injured due to on-the-job exposure to meth from paying for her own attorney on her workers-compensation claim. Frank Fernandez

Read More

TALLAHASSEE — An appeals court on Wednesday ruled unconstitutional a state law that prohibited an Edgewater police officer who said she was injured due to on-the-job exposure to meth from paying for her own attorney on her workers-compensation claim. CHRISTINE SEXTON

Read More

A panel from Florida's 1st District Court of Appeal on Wednesday declared the state's statutory limits on the compensation of claimants' attorneys unconstitutional, as applied to an injured police officer who was willing to pay an hourly fee to her counsel.

Read More

As readers will recall, I authorised an article in September which outlined a massive problem related to unpaid impairment benefits to Palm Beach PBA members with hypertension and/or heart disease.

Read More

Florida workers' comp practitioners have had their eye on the state Supreme Court for more than a year, awaiting a ruling in Castellanos v. The Next Door Co. on the constitutionality of the statutory cap on claimant attorney fees.

Read More

Bichler/Kelley files amicus brief on behalf of police organizations with the Florida Supreme Court in the Stahl matter. Read More


Geoff Bichler interviewed by WorkCompCentral regarding the Stahl case currently before the Florida Supreme Court. Read More

The Florida Supreme Court has agreed to accept review of yet another workers' compensation case. Stahl v. Hialeah Hospital is a constitutional challenge based on the premise that the workers' compensation system is no longer a fair replacement remedy for a civil cause of action.

Read More

The PBCPBA has discovered that potentially millions of dollars in unpaid benefits are owed to members with work-injury claims, even though the members have returned to work without loss of income.

Read More

Regulators considering revisions to Florida Impairment Guides that could have major impact on tax fee impairment benefit payments to First Responder Community.

Read More

The Commonwealth of Pennsylvania celebrates its workers' compensation centennial in 2015. Part of the bar and agency recognition of this milestone was a program presented on June 1, 2015: the Centennial Celebration of the Pennsylvania Workers' Compensation Act. Professor Burton delivered the Keynote Address, whic is reprinted here with his permission.

Read More

Dennis Whedbee’s crew was rushing to prepare an oil well for pumping on the Sweet Grass Woman lease site, a speck of dusty plains rich with crude in Mandaree, North Dakota. MICHAEL GRABELLHOWARD BERKES

Read More

Rodney Bingham was four feet away from the truck's bumper when the engine's siren was activated; it caused permanent damage to his hearing. McClatch

Read More

The city of Ocala won a lawsuit against Safety National Casualty Corporation requiring the company to pay worker’s compensation benefits. McClatch

Read More

As Florida public employees brace for the next legislative session in Tallahassee, the agenda of the League of Cities threatens to steamroll any reasoned discussion about the allocation of the State’s resources. The continued cries that “the sky is falling” warp an already difficult political climate and obscure the reality that there are choices to make which do not require a scorched earth approach. Of course, scare tactics work well when pushing an extreme agenda, but the resulting bad legislation nearly always has unintended negative consequences. One great example of this dynamic is playing out in the debate over Florida presumptive legislation.

The pension reform act, which passed last year, created a task force to study the existing presumptive laws and make recommendations for “reform”. Needless to say, the operative assumption in creating the task force was that the existing laws, including the “Heart Bill” (F.S 112.18), were too generous. Since this assertion was made, the League of Cities and other affiliated groups have compiled statistical data demonstrating how expensive these protections are to governmental employers. This statistical analysis is accompanied by pleas to eliminate the presumptions. These statistics, however, ignore a simple but profound reality.

The current law was passed in the first legislative session after the horrific attacks of 9/11. The bravery and sacrifice of our first responders were on clear display for the nation and were fresh in the minds of the legislators who passed the current law in 2002. Everyone fully understood that heart claims were expensive at the time, but it was also understood that the very nature of the jobs these heroic public servants perform make them more susceptible to hypertension and cardiac disease. Thus, while we can all agree that it is expensive to provide benefits to first responders who develop hypertension and heart disease (due to the selfless sacrifice they make through their chosen career), there was an obvious reason to provide them and there are clear alternatives to the elimination, or severe restriction, of these important protections.

The necessity of reasoned discussion over important public policy like the “Heart Bill” is a requirement in a representative democracy; such debate provides for the crafting of the best kind of legislation that balances the interests of all stakeholders. Unfortunately, recent developments make it appear that the presumption task force is nothing more than a facade allowing the League of Cities to ram through a predetermined agenda as to a particular legislative objective.

On Thursday October 13, 2011 Representative Costello, R Ormond Beach, filed legislation that would effectively eliminate the Heart Bill for most first reponders. The bill can be reviewed at the link below:

While no one should be surprised that the League of Cities is running a bill of this nature, it seems curious, to say the least, that they could not wait until the task force had completed it’s work. After all, the task force was legislatively mandated and good people, including my partner Mike Clelland, are spending time and money to fully investigate this issue and suggest mutually beneficial reform. In the end, this looks like nothing less than another slap in the face to dedicated public servants. Enough!

Countless first responders have been saved from utter destitution by virtue of the “Heart Bill” protections. Yes, it costs money to take care of disabled first responders but ultimately there can be no more worthy use of taxpayer dollars. Notwithstanding a current trend of thought, there are certain things that state and local government must do. A stable society requires fire service, law enforcement, and correctional facilities and people to do this critical work. First responders are important pillars in a free society and society, in return, has certain obligations to those individuals that place themselves in harm’s way. When we turn our backs on disabled firefighters, police officers, and correctional officers, we are breaching a sacred obligation that makes us less worthy of the blessings of democracy and freedom. Perhaps more importantly, if first responders don’t believe that society will take care of them if they become disabled doing their jobs, how long can we expect them to selflessly continue their work?

A wise former client, now deceased, by the name of Richard Criswell put this dilemma in proper perspective. Richard had contracted Hepatitis “C” while working as a firefighter in Seminole County and found himself embroiled in a workers’ compensation dispute. He simply could not believe that there could be any dispute about his entitlement to benefits and yet his employer fought him through trial and the process of appeal. Richard became angrier as his case dragged on over time, and came to understand that a sacred trust had been broken by his employer who refused to provide him with needed benefits. Somewhere along the line it became about money for the self insured employer instead of doing the right thing. At the point this became clear Richard said to me: “I always did my job with a passion for the community I served, but with an understanding that my community would take care of me if I died or became disabled as a result of my job. If we don’t have an agreement, I want my life back!”

All first responders operate under the same assumption. Before he died from complications related to his Hepatitis “C” condition, Richard won his case and became a champion for other firefighters. His words continue to resonate today with an understanding that the selfless loyalty that first responders exhibit to their communities demand reciprocity. Yes, Richard’s case cost his employer a good deal of money because he died as a result of a bloodborne pathogen, but this is the cost a civilized society must pay to the people we ask to do the most difficult and demanding of jobs.

What we see playing out today in the debate over presumptive legislation is a classic overreaction to a legitimate fiscal problem. There are plenty of ways to improve this legislation, and minimize costs to employers, without eliminating an important protection for valued public servants. In order to have a real discussion about achieving these goals, however, we must have a partner in the discussion who is truly interested in creating good public policy, not simply ramming through an ideologically driven bill.

Whether it is pension reform, tax policy, or presumptive legislation, the people of this State have a place at the table and should be allowed to participate in an open discussion about what is best for all citizens. The recent filing of legislation by Representive Costello, before the task force has even completed it’s assignment, leaves the interested among us questioning why the charade was even begun. Perhaps more importantly, it leaves us questioning the legitimacy of a process where elected officials ignore the needs of the people while catering to powerful special interests.

Since the die seems to be cast, we will continue to call on all first responders to seek information that will allow them to perfect claims under the Heart Bill before it is too late. July 1, 2012 is less than ten months away and there are thousands of police officers, firefighters, and corrections officers who have yet to collect the benefits they are legally entitled to. While we will continue to fight against bad legislation, we will also tirelessly seek to put benefits in the hands of first responders everywhere in the State. If you have either hypertension or heart disease call our office so we can assist you. Gefforey Bichler

As many of you know BCO has begun a tour of the State to make sure that all first responders are aware of the protections afforded by the “heart/lung bill” before potentially devastating changes go into effect restricting or eliminating coverage. Last week the partners of BCO traveled to Miami and Key West for two days of meetings with firefighters and law enforcement officers. Although all meetings were very well attended, and well received, it is apparent that many first responders remain ignorant about the critical protections contained in the “heart/lung bill” and to legislative threat to same. Furthermore many are being given erroneous information leading them to believe that they are not covered by the law. The goal of our effort is to provide accurate information to every first responder so that informed decisions can be made about whether to pursue these valuable claims.

This week our team will be in the panhandle, and specifically Panama City, on Thursday and Friday as we continue our effort to ensure that all who have potentially valuable claims are aware of their rights. The following week we return to South Florida for the Firefighter Expo in Ft. Lauderdale and the Tour de Vero (a charitable bike race to benefit firefighters and honor a fallen firefighter who died from heart disease). From there we will be in Dade County for he FPF annual convention, Jacksonville for two days of presentations and Orlando for a special workshop for first responders with claims and/or questions.

The reason for this concerted effort is that the pension reform legislation passed last year included a proviso that a task force be created in order to review Florida presumptive legislation and make specific recommendations relative to same. Needless to say, given the current political climate and fiscal crisis, we do not anticipate that this task force will be making suggestions for enhancement in benefits or coverage. Consequently we are recommending that all first responders perfect claims for hypertension and heart disease as soon as possible to avoid the potentially devasting impact of this legislation.

Speaking engagements will continue thoughout the year and information can be obtained from our office for specific times and events. Of course, individual questions are always welcome at our toll free number. Please come and join us when we come to your area and call with any questions. Look forward to seeing you on the road! Gefforey Bichler

With Summer in full swing Florida public employees are now feeling the heat generated by a 3% reduction in pay (a tax by any any other name remains as onerous). Others face the reality that jobs will be lost as traditional governmental responsibilities, such as the operation of correctional facilities, will be turned over to private industry. Additional budget cuts loom and further threaten an already fragile and underfunded public school system, and infrastructure crumbles from years of neglect and overuse. Meanwhile corporate fat cats continue to take home enormous salaries and exhorbitant bonuses exacerbating an income disparity we have not seen since just prior to the Great Depression. What hope can be taken from these discouraging realities? Well, maybe people are finally beginning to see the need to get involved in the political process for one.

Thanks to Governor Scott and the extreme Republican agenda it seems that the people of Florida are beginning to stir and move in a new direction: a direction where the sacrifices of the middle class and working people will be acknowledged and rewarded. You can see it on the web, where countless grassroots websites, and new media outlets, are taking the fight to political lackeys that promote “corporate welfare” at the expense of real people. At BCO we continue our fight for real people, and will not rest until the tide is turned and the corporate oligarchs are defeated. In our estimation there is nothing extreme about the idea that government is “by and for the people”; when is stops functioning as such we have strayed from the principles that our Country was founded upon. So, what is a message that this new movement can agree on?

Let’s start by keeping it simple: life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness! Has a certain ring to it don’t you think? These ideals require us to acknowledge a shared humanity and fundamental equality regardless of where you happen to fall on the income scale. It might be argued that the sole purpose of government is to provide a structure within which all citizens have an equal opportunity to enjoy these founding principles. Additionally, our founding document provides that the government shall promote the “general welfare” and ensure “domestic tranquility.” Shouldn’t these principles be placed on the scale when considering what government actions, if any, need to be taken in a given situation? Much of this seems lost in the partisan debates currently taking place over what entails good public policy. Let’s take this Country back from corporations and special interests and remake it in a way that reflects the vision of the Founding Fathers. We can start with some basic ideas.

People need to be able to earn a living wage regardless of the kind of work they perform. People also need access to basic affordable health care and educational opportunities. People need: safe water and food supplies; safe roads and bridges; safe and efficient transportation systems; public safety (police, fire, criminal justice and corrections); a fair civil justice system for the redress of grievances; and, people need a political process that allows for, and encourages, participation of all citizens while minimizing the impact of special interests. It seems to me that most people, regardless of political affilliation, agree with these ideas. They reflect a common understanding of basic government functions necessary to allow people to thrive and excell which in turn makes our Nation stronger.

In the coming months we will continue our firm outreach to all parts of this State to make sure that first responders understand their rights under existing law. We will take up the fight wherever it presents itself, and we will exhaust all available avenues to recover benefits for our valued clients. While this effort is focused and limited in scope, it will have a larger impact as it puts money in the pockets of middle class people who are fed up with the direction this State has taken politically. November 2012 is not far off. Get involved and vote in a way that promotes your own self interest: a stronger middle class and working class! Gefforey Bichler

Welcome to our new website and my inaugural blog. As you can see our firm has undertaken some major changes in the last few months to insure that our clients are getting the best possible legal representation all over the state. We have incorporated all of the best parts of our previous incarnation (Bichler & Kelley P.A.) and expanded with five new partners. All of this has been in keeping with our ultimate goal of providing full service representation to the first responder community across Florida.

As I write this, the legislative session is in full swing and the 1st District Court of Appeals has just ruled in the case of Kauffman v. Community Inclusions, Inc./Guarantee Insurance Company, further eroding the rights of injured first responders. Unions that protect our clients are under a massive assault by big corporate interests who are only interested in maximizing profits at the expense of what remains of the middle class. We are continuing to work both in the legislature and in the courtroom to fight against these trends that impact our clients, their families, and their way of life. We will work to move the Kauffman case to the Supreme Court of Florida and continue to work in the legislature to protect the rights of our clients. I also urge each of you to get engaged by calling your legislators and, if possible, joining us and your union representatives in Tallahassee.

Our ultimate goal at Bichler, Clelland, Oliver is to meet all the legal needs of all first responders in the most efficient way possible and at significant savings. We offer reduced fees to all first responders and their families making sure you keep more of your hard earned money. For example most personal injury firms take 33 percent of any recovery made as a result of an automobile accident, even if no suit has been filed. At Bichler, Clelland, Oliver first responders and their families pay only 25 percent of any recovery in a personal injury case, saving a full 8 percent before a case goes to suit. After a case goes to suit most firms charge 40 percent of recovery while we only charge 35 percent— saving clients 5 percent. We also charge reduced hourly rates for criminal representation, labor consulting, preparation of wills and trusts, and family law issues. Again, our goal here is to always maximize the recovery of our clients and to minimize legal costs wherever possible. This means more money for first responders and their families with less paid out in legal expenses.

Additionally Bichler, Clelland, Oliver is committed to the charitable and political causes of our clients in a way that has a fundamental impact on the first responder community. Our firm regularly contributes to firefighter and police charities, widows of first responders who die in the line of duty, and to political causes and candidates that support our clients and first responders. Last year we worked tirelessly to help pass legislation that provides health insurance benefits to dependents of firefighters who die in training exercises — donating hundreds of man-hours of pro-bono work to this cause. This year we have continued to engage in the legislative process by actively opposing mandatory pension contributions for first responders and other public employees. We oppose legislation that targets the power of first responder labor groups. All of this work is done without compensation, for the benefit of our clients. We depend on general revenue to pay for our legislative work. Consequently, when you hire our firm you are helping us continue all of this important work.

We recognize that these are very difficult times for our clients and for all first responders. It is our sincere hope that we can provide relief to our clients by providing certainty and resolve in times of need. This is our commitment to all of you and we will continue our efforts in the coming months to spread the word about this important work. Please help us by making other first responders aware of the services we provide and the savings that are available.

I look forward to speaking with all of you. Please check this blog monthly for updates. Gefforey Bichler