Firefighters: just the word invokes a sense of admiration. They are, after all, some of the only men and women that would rush into a burning building to save a life. But, because they are inhaling smoke, combustion by-products, and ash quite frequently, these very same heroes are also three times more likely than the average person to end up with cancer. The only thing more concerning than that statistic is just how difficult it often is for them to receive workers’ compensation.
National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health Study
In 2013, the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) analyzed cancers and cancer deaths of nearly 30,000 firefighters from the Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco Departments. When their rates were compared to the general public, NIOSH found firefighters were 68 percent more likely to be diagnosed with some form of cancer.
Respiratory, digestive, oral, and urinary cancer accounted for most of the increased rates, suggesting these were the most likely for firefighters to develop, but there were other types of cancer as well. Moreover, U.S. firefighters were two times more likely to develop malignant mesothelioma – an aggressive cancer of the lung and abdomen membranes most often associated with asbestos exposure – than the general public.
Trouble Receiving Workers’ Compensation
Over the years, reform to workers’ compensation laws has made it difficult for any employee to receive benefits because they must often prove the injury was actually caused by their jobs. For firefighters, there are 30 states with presumptive laws that automatically connect certain types of cancer to their jobs, but this does not apply to all cancer, all situations, or even all employees.
Take the state of Illinois, for example, where only cancer of the lungs and respiratory tract are named in the presumptive law. Cancer of the brain, prostate, urinary tract, and other parts of the body would not be automatically included. As such, the firefighter would somehow have to prove that the cancer was job-related, and that can be nearly impossible to do.
To make matters worse, the presumptive law does not cover all firefighters diagnosed with lung or respiratory cancers; to qualify, they must have at least five years of active duty and still be employed. All others are immediately excluded, including those that developed cancer just one month shy of their five-year work anniversary.
Firefighters Fight Fires; We Fight for Justice
Our heroes should never have to worry whether or not their job-related illness will be covered under workers’ compensation; instead, they should be able to focus on healing and spending time with their families. That is exactly why the attorneys of Kinnally Flaherty Krentz Loran Hodge & Masur P.C. fight so hard for justice. Ensure your rights and best interest are protected. Call 630-907-0909 and schedule a free initial consultation with our respected and experienced Illinois workers’ compensation attorneys today.