Firefighting is an inherently dangerous occupation. The brave men and women who risk their lives for our safety face serious risks every day. In addition to the potential for severe burns or smoke inhalation, there are less obvious hazards they must also contend with.
Modern day construction uses different building materials than were used 100 years ago. Synthetic materials are often used to enhance insulation or to make construction cheaper. However, when such materials burn, they emit toxic chemicals-which have been linked to cancer.
Since this connection was first proven, firefighters across the country have been pushing to have cancer recognized as an occupational disease under workers’ compensation law. Some states have successfully passed such legislation; others have not.
What is the law in Pennsylvania?
In Pennsylvania, firefighters who develop cancer have recourse to receive treatment paid for by workers’ compensation insurance. Pennsylvania amended the Workers’ Compensation Act to include the Firefighter Cancer Presumption Law.
In order for a firefighter to file a claim for cancer, they must:
· Have served as a paid or volunteer firefighter for four consecutive years
· Have passed a doctor’s physical exam, which demonstrates they were cancer-free prior to beginning work on a firefighting brigade
· Be able to demonstrate direct exposure to certain carcinogens, such as asbestos, benzene or coal
Under this law, if a firefighter is diagnosed with cancer, there is an automatic presumption that the condition is work-related-and such cancer is covered by workers’ comp. However, if a firefighter has other conditions that put them at risk of cancer-e.g., regular tobacco use over a sustained period or a family history of cancer-their workers’ comp claim may be rejected.
If you are a current or former firefighter who has been diagnosed with cancer, it’s important to consult with an experienced workers’ compensation attorney to ensure you’re receiving the benefits you deserve. Contact our firm at 908-454-3200 to meet with an experienced attorney.