Preparing a CD-72 The Right Way
You already know that your CD-72 can mean the difference between an accident-disability pension and an ordinary-disability pension. But firefighters and officers are given surprisingly little guidance on how to fill out a CD-72 in a way that takes your legal rights into account. This article is intended to give you some pointers.
No injury is too minor for a well-prepared CD-72
Every time you are injured, even if you feel it’s minor, a CD-72 must be completed, and it must be done completely, carefully, accurately, and descriptively. The long-term implications of your injuries will likely not be immediately apparent, and you may be creating the report that the pension boards will scrutinize in determining your pension rights, or that a jury will see when it decides whether you are entitled to compensation for your injuries. Every time you prepare or review a CD-72, remind yourself that this is an extremely important record of the injuries and the accident.
When it comes to identifying your injuries, the biggest mistake that you can make on your CD-72 is leaving out an injured body part.
When someone injures more than one body part in an accident, they tend to focus on the areas that hurt the most, and to ignore areas that feel less serious. People also mistake where their pain is coming from. Pain in your hip can actually mean a problem in your back. Pain in your shoulder may actually happen because of a problem in your neck. Pain is tricky – it can radiate and it can be diffuse. Pain may not be immediately apparent, it may come on over hours or even days. But there are things that you can do to minimize the risk of leaving an injury out of your CD-72.
Take a head-to-toe inventory. If you feel pain, tenderness, discomfort, stiffness, achiness, numbness, tingling, throbbing, pressure, tightness, soreness, or anything unusual to any body part, no matter how minor, include that body part in your CD-72. It’s better to err on the side of inclusion.
If you aren’t sure where your pain is coming from, list all possibilities. For example, if you feel pain in your shoulder, consider including your neck as well. If you leave the neck out, it may be difficult to relate a neck injury to the accident later on.
If you realize that you did not list an injury in your CD-72, you certainly want to consider an amendment. This should be done as soon as possible after you recognize the problem.
The accident description
The most common problems that we have seen in the accident description section of the CD-72 is inadequate detail and errors in the description of the accident. The errors often happen because the report is not adequately reviewed or corrected by the member. If you are not filling out the accident description yourself, and chances are you won’t be, you must review it carefully, and you must not let it go in with mistakes.
For pension purposes, the difference between an “accident” and an “incident” can turn on the level of detail in the accident description. You may have heard that New York courts define an accident as a “sudden fortuitous mischance, unexpected, out of the ordinary, and injurious on impact.” But you cannot just use those words. In fact, you should not use those words. Rather, you must specifically describe what it was about the accident that made it sudden, unusual and unexpected.
Nothing about your job is routine. It’s up to you to describe the unique circumstances that caused your injury. We have an acronym that can help you to think through your accident description: M.I.C.E. (Movement, impact, conditions, emergency care).
Movement: Describe the movement involved in the accident. Was it caused by twisting, falling, or jerking? Was it caused by a striking blow? Or a crushing impact?
Impact: Note any body parts that received an impact and describe the chain of events leading to the impact.
Conditions: Note any condition that contributed to the injury such as heavy smoke, ice, poor lighting, a hole in the floor, a broken step, a loose floor tile, a collyer’s mansion, a falling object, a missing railing, defective equipment, etc.
Emergency Care: Describe any emergency care and anything immediately noteworthy. Did you go to the ER? Did you see an FDNY physician? Were you removed from the scene on a backboard?
Beyond the CD-72
While your CD-72 is an extremely important document, your medical records are equally important. You must be careful in how you describe your accident and your injuries to your physicians. When a doctor or nurse asks what happened to you, be accurate and thorough. Moreover, if you are experiencing pain or other symptoms, you must let the doctor know. If you are having problems, your medical records should reflect that. Never go in for a follow-up appointment and say you are doing well if you are still having problems.