The Ohio Bureau of Workers’ Compensation (BWC) is now considering many firefighter cancer cases as presumptive to their employment conditions, making them eligible for workers’ compensation.
A new law recognizing cancer as a work-related illness for Ohio firefighters, known as presumptive cancer legislation, became effective April 6, 2017. It allows firefighters with cancer to file a claim for workers’ compensation benefits from BWC. In addition, the BWC and State Fire Marshal announced in November 2017 a $1.5 million joint fund for training and exposure prevention.
Under the law, all types of cancers and their treatments would be covered under the BWC and the Ohio Police and Fire Pension Fund for any firefighter, full-time or volunteer, who has worked for at least six years on hazardous duty and is age 70 or younger. Unless their employer can prove otherwise, a firefighter’s cancer will be presumed to be work-related, which makes it easier for the brave men and women of Ohio who fight fires to receive the treatment they deserve.
“We’re happy to see that firefighters are now protected and the extraordinary risks that they encounter are recognized,” said Capt. Mark Sahley of the Cleveland Fire Department. “This is about protecting those who protect us and their families.”
If you’re an injured firefighter or the family member of an injured or deceased firefighter, you may be wondering if you should file for workers’ compensation or file a lawsuit, but first, we’ll get into how the presumptive cancer claims work. No matter how you choose to pursue recovery for your injury or illness, the experienced workers’ compensation attorneys at Plevin & Gallucci can help you get the compensation you deserve.
How many firefighters get cancer?
So, just how many firefighters might this legislation affect in Ohio? Although no known comprehensive studies in our area have been done (Toledo firefighters just agreed to take part in a study underway by Ohio State University), the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) spent six years examining 30,000 firefighters and their link to cancer. The firefighters were located in Chicago, Philadelphia, and San Francisco.
Their main findings included:
- Firefighters have a greater number of cancer diagnoses and cancer-related deaths than the general U.S. population;
- Most firefighter cancers are digestive, oral, respiratory, or urinary;
- Twice as many firefighters than the general population had malignant mesothelioma, which is a rare cancer caused by asbestos exposure;
- Younger firefighters (under age 65) had more bladder and prostate cancers than study authors expected;
- The chances of being diagnosed with or dying from lung cancer increased with the amount of time spent at fires;
- The chances of dying from leukemia also increased with the number of fire runs.
Despite the large study, the ability to detect links between firefighting and certain cancers remains limited. For example, measurements of actual exposures were unavailable, as was information on exposures to cancer-causing agents outside of firefighting and lifestyle choices, including diet, smoking habits, alcohol use, and exercise.
When certain criteria are met, BWC will presume a firefighter’s cancer is work-related. A Presumption of Causation for Firefighter Cancer (C-265) form must be filled out to gather information about the claim and submitted along with a First Report of an Injury, Occupational Disease or Death (FROI). Important: Before filing this paperwork, you should consult with an attorney to ensure you get the most benefits possible.
Eligibility requirements for firefighters include having his or her cancer first diagnosed, first treated, or resulting in quitting work on or after April 6, 2017. The presumption does not apply to firefighters who have died of cancer before April 6, 2017 or apply to claims for those who have been diagnosed, received treatment AND quit work due to cancer before this date.
A claim is compensable if the injured worker has:
- Worked as a firefighter and had a cancer diagnosis;
- Worked for at least six years of hazardous duty, part of which must have occurred within the past 20 years;
- Been exposed while working as a firefighter to an agent classified as Group 1 or Group 2A carcinogens, according to the International Agency for Research on Cancer;
- Not turned 71 years of age or older.
How do I file a presumptive cancer claim?
An attorney can make sure that a FROI is properly completed and all necessary medical evidence and language accompanies your application. When an injured firefighter completes the FROI and presumptive cancer form, the firefighter or their representative must fax both documents to 866-336-8352 or send them to a local BWC customer service office. The Cleveland Service Office is located at 615 Superior Ave. W., Sixth Floor, Cleveland, OH, 44113. Service office maps for the entire state can be located here.
Once the forms are received, BWC will determine if the new law applies to each case. It’s important to note that the injured firefighter’s employer (fire department) has the right to file a rebuttal of a presumptive cancer claim — and most likely will.
How does workers’ compensation work in Ohio?
Workers’ compensation involves accidents or illnesses that happen at work or because of work, and when your related injuries affect your day-to-day life. In order to qualify for workers’ compensation, you generally have to meet a handful of requirements, including:
- Your employer must be covered. Most employers are covered by workers’ compensation; federal employees must file through the federal government’s system rather than Ohio’s.
- You have to be an employee and not working under the table. Independent contractors may be covered.
- Any injury or illness experienced must be work related, including suffering from an occupational illness because the requirements of your job or exposure to toxins at work caused your ailments. Medical records must link the injury or illness to your work.
No matter how minor your work-related injury may seem, you must report it to your employer immediately and seek medical attention, if necessary. While workers’ compensation benefits could be desirable, if you receive them, you lose your right to sue your employer for the injury or illness. The experienced workers’ compensation attorneys of Plevin & Gallucci can help you determine which route to take.
Will the BWC help me?
Before you send off your forms to the BWC, you should speak with an attorney at Plevin & Gallucci. We can help you fill out your paperwork appropriately, and fight on behalf of your claim. The BWC will let you know if your claim has been approved or denied within 28 days, using your medical diagnosis, a detailed description of the accident, treatment documentation, and your outlook for recovery in its decision-making process.
In most cases, your employer is going to try to find a way to deny your claim because more claims means higher premiums — and they have an attorney on their side who is against higher premiums, and therefore against you and your claim.
The outcome of a workers’ compensation case can have a huge impact on your future and we want to make sure you get what you deserve. Using the services of an attorney could result in a substantial settlement. We have won cases for many cancer patients and their families as well as appeals of injured workers’ cases initially handled by another law firm.
Plevin & Gallucci has been fighting for injured Ohio workers’ rights for more than 40 years. We care about Ohio firefighters and want to protect them, as they’ve protected us. If you’ve been diagnosed with cancer as a result of hazards on the job, contact us anytime for a free case review by calling 1-855-4-PLEVIN or filling out our online contact form.