New Laws: Lump Sum Workers Comp Payouts
for First Responders with Occupational Cancers
In most cases of work-related illness or injury, the worker must prove their ailment is a result of occupational exposures. However, the recent shift to “presumptive legislation,” the burden shifts, and the employer is now placed in the position of having to prove that a first responder’s working conditions were not a contributing factor to the development of cancer. This opens the door to a streamlined process: line-of-duty claims, and any available benefits can be automatically approved as long as the specific criteria are met.
Some States Have Adopted Option of Lump Sum Payouts for First Responders
Currently, 33 states including California have adopted presumption legislation that provides first responders with worker’s comp coverage for certain occupational-related cancers and diseases.
Recently, a trend has been taking hold in a few states (although to date, not yet in California). That trend is to offer first responders with occupational cancers or diseases the option of a lump sum payout rather than seeking reimbursement through the traditional worker’s comp system.
Mississippi Offers First Responder Lump Sum Payouts in Certain Instances
Mississippi lawmakers recently passed H.B. 2835 (called the Mississippi First Responders Health and Safety Act) that offers monetary benefits to first responders stricken by an occupational-related cancer or disease. H.B. 2835 offers monetary benefits to first responders who have occupational-related cancers or diseases, and if they have logged 10 or more years of service, they are eligible for a lump-sum payout as an alternative to workers comp coverage.
The Mississippi law is especially interesting because it offers first responders, including volunteer firefighters, the choice whether to seek worker’s comp or a lump sum payout. The law also reduces the previous worker’s comp standard in terms of what proof is necessary to establish that the cancer or disease was occupational in nature.
Other States Are Following Mississippi in First Responder Lump Sum Payout Options
In 2017, Georgia lawmakers also passed legislation that includes lump-sum workers’ comp payouts similar to Mississippi’s law. It also removes cancer presumptions from worker’s comp, but requires fire departments to provide sufficient insurance to pay for occupational-related cancer coverage for firefighters who have been on the job for at least a year.
Florida is in the process of evaluating the adoption of similar legislation that would provide firefighters with a one-time cash payout of $25,000 upon the initial diagnosis of cancer instead of workers comp.
New York already has lump sum payout legislation for occupational cancer diagnoses, but it is limited to volunteer firefighters as opposed to first responders in general.
What this Means for First Responder Workers Comp
Because cancer has so many potential causes, it is difficult to establish under the worker’s comp system that a claim is compensable. The hope is that the new “automatic lump sum” payment laws will provide first responders with payment more quickly since there is the presumption that the diagnosis of cancer is occupational.
The lump sum payout options may not seem to be substantial, but in many cases, the workers’ comp payouts actually exceed the current cap limits available under the worker’s comp system. Generally, employers pay for a generous amount of group health coverage for first responders, so these workers’ comp payouts can be used to help first responders support themselves while battling cancer, rather than solely paying for medical costs.
Firefighter associations in Mississippi and other states that have adopted this type of legislation have lined up in support, calling it landmark legislation in favor of the state’s firefighters.
While this lump sum law has not been adopted yet in California, our Workers Comp attorneys will keep on top of current legislative trends and keep you posted.
Long Beach First Responder Workers Comp Lawyers
If you are a first responder who contracted cancer, or was otherwise injured or made ill in the workplace, we recommend that you speak with an experienced workers comp lawyer immediately. Even if you are currently receiving workers comp benefits, it is a good idea to get thorough and accurate legal advice to protect your rights and ensure you are getting the maximum benefits.
An experienced workers compensation lawyer can help you identify minor issues before they become major problems – and make sure that you not only receive your benefits now, but for years to come.
Your consultation with our workers’ comp lawyers is 100% confidential, and neither your employer nor your insurance company will be notified that you requested a consultation with us. Our Long Beach, CA workers comp lawyers will help you understand your rights and work tirelessly to ensure that you receive the maximum workers’ comp benefits for which you qualify.