In the past several months, I have had occasion to talk with several members about work-related injuries. Many of them were minor, so the thought was just to brush it off and move on. The problems arise when the “minor” injuries progress into bigger injuries and were not originally reported. I cannot say it enough: If you are hurt on the job, no matter how insignificant you think it is, please at least report it to your sergeant in memo form. Like every other aspect of this job, documentation is key.
The following is an article I wrote in a previous issue, and it bears revisiting. It dives into the Industrial process and ways to protect yourself now and moving forward through your careers. Officer safety is always talked about, and rightfully so. However, this topic is rarely spoken of and only when something serious happens. Knowledge is power.
Police work is a profession that entails a lot of physical exertion — whether jumping walls, chasing an individual who is less than thrilled by our presence, taking a suspect into custody who doesn’t believe they did anything wrong, or simply driving a marked patrol car that doubles as a bull’s-eye for red-light runners. As a result, most of us at one time or another will be making a trip to Concentra, our primary care physician or, worse, the emergency room for an on-duty injury. Navigating this scenario can be a lesson in patience.
If you are injured, no matter how minor the injury may seem, you need to report it to your supervisor immediately to memorialize it.
If you are injured, no matter how minor the injury may seem, you need to report it to your supervisor immediately to memorialize it. Just because it seems like no big deal now doesn’t mean that it won’t culminate into a bigger issue down the road. If you do need to seek medical treatment for a minor issue, you can go directly to Concentra or your primary care physician for your initial visit. (There is no requirement for you to make one visit to Concentra.) If you choose Concentra, you can still follow up with your primary care physician. If, however, you go to a second visit at Concentra, then Concentra becomes your doctor of record for that injury.
Regardless of the route you choose, you will have to fill out the Industrial paperwork that your supervisor will provide you. This paperwork will need to be routed through police fiscal and, ultimately, to City Safety, where a claim number will be assigned. City Safety has the ability to expedite the assigning of a claim number in certain cases. From that point, you will be assigned to a workers’ compensation adjuster from CCMSI, the third-party administrator for our workers’ compensation program. The adjuster will be your point of contact with respect to that injury.
If you are seriously injured and require emergency treatment, there are some things you need to be aware of. While you are at the hospital, your supervisor should bring the required paperwork to you for completion. If you are unable to complete the employee’s portions, then a spouse may do so or you may do so later when you’re able (OPS 3.73.C(3)(a)). After leaving the emergency room or hospital, you may follow up with a physician of your choosing.
If you receive a bill for services rendered during this process, whether it is a doctor’s bill, an ambulance bill or emergency room bill, it is of the utmost importance that you call your adjuster, City Safety staff or me so we can ensure that the “Bill to” is changed from your name to the City of Phoenix. We have had several instances where this has not occurred, and officers have thrown away the bill with the assumption that “it’s workers’ comp, I don’t need to worry about this.” In such cases, the bills have ended up in collections and, subsequently, on individual credit reports. Understandably, this is very frustrating for the officer. The City typically receives a discount on the bill if it is paid within 15 days, so the sooner they know about it, the better it is.
Another important aspect to an industrial injury is that each covered injury has 2,080 hours (equivalent of one year) attached to it. What this means is that if you are unable to work because of the injury, workers’ compensation pays a portion of your salary and the City will supplement the remaining portion for the duration of the injury, or up to 2,080 hours. That 2,080 hours also cover follow-up appointments and any physical therapy that is prescribed. If you exhaust that bank of time and continue to need time off for appointments, you will have to start using BI, BV or BC time. If you can work light duty, I would encourage you to take advantage of it even if it is in callback to preserve that bank of hours. You may need to tap into them later if the claim needs to be reopened.
With COVID-19 being as prevalent as it is, I would suggest that if you come in contact with someone who is exhibiting signs and symptoms of COVID-19 or they tell you they have COVID, to document it in memo form to your sergeant as soon as possible. This will memorialize your contact should you end up contracting COVID a week or two later. COVID is covered by workers’ compensation, so long as it is more likely than not contracted during the course of your official duties. You will complete the entire Industrial packet if you test positive for COVID. Documentation is very important!
This article is only intended to cover the highlights of the workers’ compensation process. Operations Orders 3.7.3 explains the process at length. If you ever have any questions, please feel free to contact Tracy Hamilton in the City Safety Department at (602) 534-9530 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You may also contact me for assistance. I am always available at the PLEA office or by email at email@example.com.