Firefighters and police officers are routinely exposed to occupational hazards that most people only rarely come into contact with. Police often have to deal with violent situations and firefighters may be exposed to dangerous chemicals and substances that can cause both short- and long-term health problems. Because of these hazards, Maryland state law presumes a number of types of cancers contracted by firefighters to be the result of occupational hazards. For the purposes of workers' compensation, knowing what these cancers may have serious implications.
Presumed occupational diseases
As the Baltimore Sun reports, most states, including Maryland, presume that certain types of cancer are work-related for firefighters. However, which cancers should be considered work-related and which are not is an ongoing debate. In 2012, for example, the General Assembly added a number of cancer types to the law as being presumed occupational diseases for firefighters.
In addition to cancer types, hypertension and heart disease are also considered to be presumed occupational diseases for both police officers and firefighters. Presumption in the case of firefighters and police is important because it means that, when pursuing workers' compensation, it is the burden of the government to prove that the covered disease was not a result of the claimant's employment. Without presumption, the employee would be required to prove that his or her disease was a result of his or her work.
What cancer types are covered?
Because presumption can play a crucial role in whether or not a workers' compensation claim is accepted, it is important for firefighters to know which cancers are presumed to be occupational diseases.
Under the current Maryland Annotated Code, Labor and Employment (LE) Article, §9-503, leukemia as well as prostate, rectal, throat, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin's lymphoma, brain, testicular, and breast cancer are all presumed to be the result of firefighters coming into contact with toxic substances during the course of their employment.
Although presumption plays a crucial role in workers' compensation claims, it is a mistake to assume that a claim will be accepted simply because it is for a presumed occupational disease. A firefighter's employer (in this case, the government) can still challenge a claim even if it is for one of the cancers listed above. In addition, the cancer types considered to be work-related are frequently changing.
As a result, anybody making a workers' compensation claim, including firefighters and police officers, should contact an attorney as soon in the claims process as possible. A disease or injury can have serious long-term consequences on one's quality of life and ability to earn a living. The assistance of an experienced attorney may help increase the chances of one's claim ultimately being approved.