EMTs loading an ambulance with an injured victim

Common On The Job Injuries of First Responders

First responders are the unsung heroes of our society. They are the men and women who put their lives on the line every day to keep us safe, and, unfortunately, because of the nature of their jobs, first responders are also at a higher risk for sustaining on-the-job injuries. In this blog, we will discuss the five most common on-the-job injuries suffered by first responders and their compensation option in Texas.

Most Common Causes of Injuries for First Responders

First responders are trained to deal with various emergencies but are not immune to injury. In fact, first responders are more likely than the general population to be injured on the job. To better understand the most common injuries sustained on the job, let’s start with the common causes.

Car Accidents

One of the most common risks faced by first responders is car accidents. Whether responding to an emergency call or chasing after a suspect, first responders often drive at high speeds, increasing their risk of being involved in a car accident.

Acts of Violence

On-the-job violence is a fact of life for many first responders. A study conducted in 2015 of EMS personnel concluded that out of 1,800 individuals, 69 percent had experienced some form of on-the-job violence in the past year.

To break it down a bit further, here are the types of violence experienced:

  • 33% had been punched, slapped, or scratched.
  • 30% had been spat on.
  • 11% had been bitten.
  • More than two-thirds had been verbally abused.

An additional study conducted by the National Institute of Occupational Safety and Health in 2016 concluded that about 3,500 EMS workers were sent to the hospital due to violent acts on the job. Though, many experts agree the number is much higher.

Exposure to Harmful Substances

First responders are often exposed to harmful substances like chemicals and hazardous materials. This exposure can lead to serious health problems, including cancer.

Many first responders, specifically firefighters, are exposed to a broad spectrum of harmful materials when responding to structure fires. Some of these materials include:

There is evidence that the variety of cancers in firefighters is greater than the average population. Furthermore, studies of particulate infiltration show that even in full fire gear, firefighters sustain exposure in particular areas, such as the jaw-line, neck, hands, and groin.


Falls are one of the leading causes of injuries among first responders. First responders often have to climb buildings and vehicles to access patients or suspects. This puts them at an increased risk of falling and sustaining serious injuries, such as:

Common Injuries of First Responders

On-the-job injuries sustained by first responders can be divided into two broad categories: traumatic and exposure injuries. Traumatic injuries are caused by a single event, such as being involved in a car accident or being the victim of an act of violence.

On the other hand, exposure injuries are caused by repeated exposure to a hazardous substance or condition, such as asbestos or secondhand smoke. Here are some of the most common on-the-job injuries sustained by first responders:

Traumatic Brain Injuries

Traumatic brain injuries (TBIs) are some of the most serious on-the-job injuries that first responders can sustain. TBIs can occur when the head is suddenly and violently shaken, as in a car accident or physical altercation.

Symptoms of TBIs include:

  • Headaches
  • Dizziness
  • Nausea
  • Fatigue
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Mood swings.

If you suspect that you have sustained a TBI, it is essential to seek medical attention immediately.

Spinal Cord Injury

Spinal cord injuries (SCIs) can be just as serious as TBIs. SCIs occur when there is damage to the spinal cord itself or to the nerves that run through it. This type of damage can result in partial or complete paralysis below the injury site.

SCIs can be caused by car accidents, falls, and acts of violence. If you suspect you have sustained an SCI, seeking medical attention immediately to receive proper treatment and begin your road to recovery is vital.

Broken Bones

First responders are at a higher risk for broken bones than the general population because they are often involved in car accidents and physical altercations. Broken bones can range from minor fractures that heal relatively quickly to severe breaks that require surgery and lengthy recoveries.

No matter the severity, first responders must take time off work to recover. Furthermore, the incident that caused the injury can leave these brave men and women with lasting emotional and mental damage they will need to deal with even after they heal.


Burns can range from minor first-degree burns that cause redness and swelling to serious third-degree burns that damage tissues and nerves beneath the skin. First responders can sustain burns while fighting fires or coming into contact with hazardous chemicals or substances.

Recovery from these injuries can be quick or last a lifetime, requiring many medical procedures, such as skin grafts.

Related articles you may find helpful: Your Guide to Catastrophic Injuries

If you are a first responder injured on the job, you may be entitled to file a personal injury claim.

At The Shellist Law Firm, PLLC, we hold first responders near to our heart and are committed to helping law enforcement officers and first responders who have been injured in the line of duty seek the financial compensation they are owed. Contact our firm today to discuss your options. (713) 999-6855