Matt Dawson Act headed to Gov. Abbott’s desk

Legislation improving workers compensation benefits for first responders to be signed into law.
Published: May. 18, 2023 at 11:18 PM CDT
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AUSTIN, Texas (KCBD) - A bill named for retired Lubbock firefighter Matt Dawson will now go to Governor Abbott to be signed into law.

The Matt Dawson Act, or House Bill 2468, passed unanimously through the Texas Senate on Wednesday.

The Matt Dawson Act was created after the January 2020 crash that killed Lubbock Fire Rescue Lieutenant Eric Hill and Lubbock Police Officer Nick Reyna.

Hill, Reyna, and Dawson were on scene near I-27 responding to a crash when a truck crossed the median, striking the first responders. Dawson suffered a traumatic brain injury in the crash, and was left with long-term disabilities.

“It just really made me doubt myself because I’m going to have to do some sort of work to provide for my family, because I can’t get out there and be the first responder I was,” Dawson said.

The language in the previous Texas Workers Compensation laws restricted lifetime benefits for brain injuries to those who suffered imbecility or insanity.

Lubbock Representative Dustin Burrows says such exclusive restrictions played a large role in the reworking of the law.

“The way they applied it, they said ‘okay, so you were a fully functioning police officer, firefighter, but perhaps you could go be a greeter at Walmart’, therefore you don’t meet the definition of imbecility,” Burrows said.

Under the Matt Dawson Act, workers who suffer a brain injury in the line of duty are now eligible for lifetime wage benefits if the injury results in a “permanent, major neurocognitive disorder or psychotic disorder.”

“Now this bill helps other injured first responders in their time of need,” Dawson said.

In addition to expanding the range of injuries that qualify an injured worker for benefits, HB 2864 also provides benefits for volunteer first responders.

“Especially in rural Texas, a lot of our fire departments are volunteer fire departments in nature. We wanted to make sure if they were out there protecting us, that they are also entitled to benefits because they’re equally deserving,” Burrows said.

The process of passing the Matt Dawson Act through the legislature has not been easy, but Dawson says he’s proud of the work the bill has done and would go through it again to support his fellow first responders.

“I feel like everything we did was a huge accomplishment. I’m almost speechless knowing that it has passed,” Dawson said.

Once the bill is signed into law by Governor Abbott, the new qualifications for worker’s compensation benefits will go into effect on Sept. 1.