Workers’ Comp Attorneys Explain the
Cancer Presumption for Injured Firefighters
Firefighters put their lives on the line every day – and their risk of on-the-job injury is much greater than in most professions. People universally respect and appreciate the risks firefighters take every day.
But many people do not realize that firefighters also face some less obvious risks to their health that are related to their job. Exposure to smoke, hazardous fumes, asbestos and other carcinogens in the line of duty can also put firefighters at risk for the development of certain cancers.
Work-caused cancer is covered by general State of California workers compensation benefits, as well as “carved out” and other workers compensation programs. But – as with any injury – an employee suffering from work-related cancer must prove that the cancer was caused by conditions related to performance of their job. And proving the cause of cancer – which may take many years to develop – can be difficult.
Employers and workers comp insurers often deny workers comp claims for cancer – on the basis that the cancer was caused by factors other than work, such as smoking, carcinogenic exposure at home or even heredity. Sadly, over the years, many deserving firefighter have been denied workers compensation benefits for cancer in this way.
In order to correct this injustice, the California legislature has put in place a law that contains a “presumption” to help firefighters collect workers compensation benefits for cancer.
What is a Firefighter Cancer Presumption for Workers Comp?
In this case a “presumption” means that it will be “assumed” that certain work-exposure caused a firefighter’s cancer. This presumption makes it much easier for a firefighter to collect workers compensation benefits which may include: total temporary disability, medical care, permanent disability, and more.
Who Is Covered Under the Workers Comp Firefighter Cancer Presumption?
Under this law (Labor Code Section 3212.1) the presumption applies to all active firefighting members, (including volunteers, partly paid, or fully paid) from of all of the following fire departments:
- city, county, district, or other public or municipal corporation or political subdivision
- fire department of the University of California and the California State University
- the Department of Forestry and Fire Protection
- county forestry or firefighting departments
- fire departments serving the United States Department of Defense
- members of a fire departments that serve National Aeronautics & Space Administration
- Certain other peace officers
- Fire and rescue services coordinators who work for the Office of Emergency Services.
What Cancers are Covered Under the Firefighter Cancer Presumption?
Even with this presumption in place, firefighters were still often denied their workers compensation benefits for cancer. As a result many such cases have been heard at the Workers’ Compensation Appeals Board. Over the years, a number of cancers have been determined to be presumptive, including:
- acute myelogenous leukemia
- appendiceal cancer
- brain tumor (pinealoblastoma)
- breast cancer
- colon cancer
- Hodgkin’s disease
- kidney cancer
- lung cancer
- multiple myloma
- non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
- pancreatic cancer
- prostate cancer
- squamous cell carcinoma of tonsil and lymph nodes
- stomach cancer
- thyroid cancer
- uterine cancer
Can Workers’ Comp Insurers Dispute the Presumption?
Unfortunately, while this “presumption” that work exposure to carcinogens caused the cancer, this presumption is “disputable” by the insurance company – and may be controverted by evidence that the Carcinogen to which the firefighter was exposed is not reasonably linked to the disabling cancer.
In other words – unfortunately the insurance company can still try to deny a firefighter’s workers comp claim for cancer. When this happens, there are a number of questions that will come up. The date that the cancer developed is important, and will affect whether the presumption is applicable. The type of substance you were exposed to will also be put into question by the insurance company.
And, of course, the workers comp insurance company will still require the submission of medical documentation including: the type of cancer; where it started; where it has spread; any biopsies; operative and pathology notes; all treatments received, including the type, length & effect, etc.
Our Long Beach Attorneys Fight for Workers Comp for Cancer
For these reasons it is always wise for an injured firefighter to discuss their case with an experienced workers comp attorney. The workers comp attorneys at Cantrell Green have dedicated their entire legal practice to helping disabled workers get the disability benefits they deserve. We have helped hundreds of injured firefighters and other safety officers fight wrongful denials and collect the maximum benefits for which they qualify.
If you are a firefighter suffering from cancer – or any other illness or injury – call our caring and experienced workers comp attorneys for a free consultation today. Our Long Beach Workers Compensation attorneys have obtained millions of dollars for injured firefighters and safety offices. We know how the California Workers Comp system works and how to obtain the maximum benefits for which you qualify.