Firefighters, Cancer, and Florida Law
During the COVID-19 pandemic, most Americans are staying home to avoid exposure to a deadly disease. Meanwhile, doctors, nurses, and first responders attend to people that they know are contagious; simply by doing their jobs, they are placing themselves at risk of the novel coronavirus attacking their lungs, too. Discussions have started to turn to whether their situation is comparable to that of firefighters who run into burning buildings while everyone else runs away. Being a firefighter is among the most universally recognized examples of a dangerous job for a reason. Smoke inhalation and exposure to carcinogens are part of the job. Therefore, workers’ compensation laws at the federal and state level contain special provisions for firefighters who develop cancer and other diseases for which they are at high risk because of their work.
A Financial Safety Net for Firefighters
The 9/11 attacks brought national attention to the lifesaving role played by firefighters and to the dangers and health risks they endure in their jobs. The James Zadroga Health and Compensation Act, which was introduced by Congress in 2010, signed into a bill by President Obama in 2011, and reauthorized in 2015, is named after a firefighter who died from cancer as a result of exposure to toxic chemicals he experienced while rescuing survivors at Ground Zero. The law is specific to people affected by the 9/11 attacks, but in 2018, President Trump passed a law that relates more generally to cancer as an occupational disease of firefighters. The Firefighter Cancer Registry Act asks the CDC to maintain a database of voluntarily reported information from firefighters throughout the country about smoke inhalation, exposure to toxic chemicals, and cancer diagnoses.
Besides these federal laws, Florida law offers special protections for firefighters and retired firefighters who get cancer. Florida has “presumptive legislation” about firefighters and cancer, which means that if a person who currently works or previously worked as a firefighter gets a cancer diagnosis, their medical expenses will automatically be covered by workers’ compensation, because the cancer will be presumed to be related to occupational exposure to smoke and other carcinogens. The Florida law lists 21 types of cancer associated with the firefighting profession, including lung cancer, mesothelioma, malignant melanoma, and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Florida also provides death benefits to a beneficiary (usually a spouse, son, or daughter) specified by the firefighter if the firefighter dies from cancer.
Cancer Is an Occupational Disease, and Not Just for Firefighters
The legal acknowledgment that firefighters’ cancer is a result of their work is important to members of other professions, too. Firefighting is not the only profession where smoke inhalation is a common occupational hazard. If you get cancer because of exposure to smoke or toxic fumes at work, workers’ compensation benefits should cover your treatment. If your employer refuses the claim, you should contact a workers’ compensation lawyer.
Reach Out to Us Today for Help
Workers’ compensation covers work-related cancer treatment, not only treatment of traumatic injuries. Contact the Sunrise workers’ compensation lawyers at the Law Offices of David M. Benenfeld for help today.