Controversial Policy Enables Florida Police Officers and Firefighters to Claim Workers’ Compensation Benefits for Treatment of All Cardiovascular and Lung Diseases
Cardiovascular events, such as heart attacks and strokes, are a leading cause of death and disability, especially in people over 50. While high blood pressure, obesity, smoking, and family history are risk factors, these problems can happen to almost anyone. They are not closely correlated with any particular profession. Why, then, does workers’ compensation law sometimes consider them occupational diseases? Florida law contains a provision that, if a police officer or firefighter suffers from any disease of the heart or lungs during their employment or after retirement, they can assume that the illness is work-related and claim workers’ compensation benefits. Some people think that this law is unfair, because even if the stereotype about donut-chomping cops were true, it isn’t as if police work and heart attacks go together like asbestos exposure and mesothelioma. In summary, how hard it is to convince your employer that your illness is work-related depends a lot on the nature of your illness and of your work. Sometimes claiming workers’ compensation is easy, but other times you need a Broward County workers’ compensation lawyer.
An Old Jail Guard with a New Heart
Brian Scherer began working at the Volusia County jail in 1993. In 2009, he began to suffer from heart problems, which sometimes caused him to miss work. His health got progressively worse until 2012, when he retired. The following year, he underwent a heart transplant. After he got the new organ, and the $430,000 bill for the surgery and follow-up treatment, his brother told him about a Florida law that requires workers’ compensation claims decisions to consider all heart problems that occur in law enforcement workers, including corrections officers like Scherer, to be work-related. According to this law, if a firefighter or law enforcement officer claims workers’ compensation for a heart or lung disease, the burden of proof is on the employer to show that the illness is not work-related.
Scherer filed the workers’ compensation claim more than a year after ending his employment with the county. A series of legal disputes followed regarding whether workers’ compensation should cover his treatment. In 2014, a judge rejected Scherer’s claim because he did not file it within 180 days of retiring from his job, but Scherer appealed the decision, and it appears that workers’ compensation will pay his hefty medical bills.
The law that gives police and firefighters so much flexibility to claim workers’ compensation for heart and lung diseases is controversial. County Chair Ed Kelley says that claims by police and firefighters for illnesses that have only a tangential connection to their work puts an unfair burden on taxpayers. Meanwhile, Brodie Hughes, president of the Volusia County deputies’ union says that few union members even know about this law, much less exploit it unfairly.
Let Us Help You Today
No matter your profession, if your employer disputes the fact that your illness or injury is work-related, you should consult a workers’ compensation lawyer. Contact a Sunrise workers’ compensation lawyer at the Law Offices of David M. Benenfeld to discuss your compensation case.