Certain occupations come with a higher level of risk to one’s health. Though firefighters face many hazards, the danger of occupational diseases may not be taken into consideration until one is diagnosed with a serious illness such as cancer. There are some districts in Missouri that are beginning to apply the presumptive legislation laws recognizing that many firefighters’ cancers are directly related to their occupation.
In many situations, whenever a firefighter is diagnosed with a serious illness such as cancer, it falls to the victim to prove that the disease is related to his or her occupation. The outcome of the findings will usually dictate whether victims will qualify for benefits from their state’s workers’ compensation program. However, with the growing recognition of presumptive legislation, it is now the responsibility of the employer to prove that working conditions did not contribute to a serious illness.
It depends on the individual state as to which cancers or other illnesses will be recognized under the presumptive laws. There are several types that are generally assumed to be related to exposure to toxic or hazardous materials, including bladder, brain, gastrointestinal and blood cancers. These cases require careful review of agency records that document exposure levels for affected workers. It is recommended that individuals also keep detailed records of any exposures that they have encountered on the job.
While each state has set laws as to whether a firefighter’s claim for compensation for potentially work-related cancer will likely be approved, Missouri has yet to adopt statewide recognition relating to occupational cancer for these first responders. Any worker — regardless of occupation — who has contracted a serious illness as a result of his or her occupation is entitled to seek benefits through the state’s workers’ compensation program. Employees may be best served by seeking the assistance of an experienced attorney who can guide them through the claims process.