Post-traumatic stress disorder claims by Minneapolis police are putting pressure on the city’s self-insurance fund and driving workers’ compensation claims to the highest number in at least a decade.
Workers’ compensation spending in the city jumped to over $14 million in 2020, with a sharp increase after George Floyd’s killing. That number was about twice as large as previous years. Minneapolis police officers accounted for most workers’ compensation claims, according to a staff presentation to a Minneapolis City Council committee on Wednesday.
Settlements approved by the council just last week totaled $3.5 million dollars. They come on top of 39 other settlements with former officers for workers’ compensation claims with the city this year.
The city is also deferring payments of worker compensation claims to try to help resolve cash flow issues, said Emily Colby, Minneapolis director of risk management. City staff have deferred about $5 million in workers’ compensation for upcoming years, with about 95 percent of those deferred claims related to Minneapolis police officers, Colby said
Employees were first allowed to file PTSD claims in 2014, and a law approved by the Minnesota Legislature that went into effect in January 2019 made it easier for first responders to file PTSD claims by assuming the diagnosis happened at work.
Colby said the PTSD claims now account for a substantial portion of the city’s workers’ compensation claims, with 189 filed between March 25, 2020 and Sept. 2, 2021. Almost half of the employees who filed PTSD claims had served for more than 20 years, according to city staff.
City staff are also predicting increases in workers compensation liability payouts in future years.
“It’s more financial risk than I think most people who are in office today are used to having,” said Council President Lisa Bender, referencing other fiscal challenges the city faces as it recovers from the COVID-19 pandemic. “It’s just worth pausing and understanding that the net financial position of our self-insurance fund is an indication of extra risk that we are carrying related to lawsuits.”
The attorney representing many of the officers has said that most have been diagnosed with PTSD. The city said the number of sworn officers in Minneapolis is down about 170 since the end of January, with another 41 on continuous leave.
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