Last year’s mass shooting at the Route 91 Harvest Music Festival in Las Vegas left 58 people dead and 489 people wounded. After the shooting started, many of the more than 200 California police officers at the festival sprang into action. They helped people get to safety, performed CPR and assisted with securing the area around the scene.
Orange County Sheriff Deputy Joe Owen was shot in the abdomen and thigh while trying to usher people to safety. Other officers were shot or injured at the festival.
After returning home, the injured officers filed for workers’ compensation benefits to cover the cost of long-term medical care, as well as missed wages.
Their claims were rejected
Due to some vague language in California labor code, several counties rejected the officers’ claims. The law stated benefits are provided for officers injured in off-duty incidents, but only in the state of California. The code made no mention of giving benefits to off-duty officers who responded to out-of-state events.
A new bill provides benefits for first responders
Following the outcry from the officers and the public, the state moved to change the legislation. At the end of September, Governor Jerry Brown signed a bill allowing police officers and firefighters to collect workers’ compensation benefits when responding to emergency situations, even when they are off-duty and out of the state. The agencies that employ the officers will have discretion about whether an injury qualifies for benefits.
For those injured in the tragedy in Las Vegas, the new bill marks a victory. They can finally access needed workers’ compensation benefits.