Firefighters put their lives on the line every time they answer the call of duty. Committed to protecting our communities, firefighters expose themselves to enormous risk of occupational injury and illness.
Working at heights and with ladders puts firefighters at risk for fall injuries. Injuries from falls include broken bones, and lacerations, as well as head injuries. Firefighters can also suffer burns, smoke inhalation and cancer. Their close proximity to burning objects means that they are exposed to many different chemical irritants, some of which are carcinogenic.
Inhaling substances such as ammonia, chlorine, and sulfur dioxide can cause direct injury to the skin and mucous membranes. Hot smoke can also cause thermal damage to the airways. Firefighters can develop respiratory ailments and illnesses. In a dangerous profession like firefighting, fatalities are also a reality.
In 2011, Pennsylvania passed a law known as the Firefighters’ Cancer Presumption Act. With this act, legislators acknowledge the high risk of cancer that exists for firefighters and establish the presumption that all types of cancer can be considered a work-related illness. The presumption extends to volunteer firefighters as well. To be eligible the worker must:
The Firefighters’ Cancer Presumption Act extends the window for filing a claim from 300 weeks to 600 weeks, however, the presumption only applies for claims raised within the first 300 weeks after the last occupational exposure.
A firefighter’s claim for cancer as an occupational disease may be disqualified if there is substantial competent evidence that the cancer was not caused by firefighting. For example, a history of heavy smoking and other non-occupational exposures combined with a family history of cancer could jeopardize a claim for compensation.
Injured volunteer firefighters may also file for Workers’ Compensation benefits. Wage-loss benefits for volunteers are based on “at-least” the state-wide average weekly wage, regardless of if they were earning at that level. This means that even volunteer firefighters who are retired or unemployed will be paid wage-loss benefits at the state-wide weekly average.
Firefighters have a higher than average rate of cancer and some insurers dropped them as a group after the Firefighters’ Cancer Presumption Act was approved. For occupational disease and other injuries, the Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation system can provide benefits for medical treatment, lost wages, prosthetics, and other costs associated with an injury/illness. Families who have lost a loved one can receive death benefits.
If you are suffering from an occupational illness or injury, contact a Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyer of Gross & Kenny, LLP. Call 267-589-0090 or complete our online form to schedule an initial consultation. Our offices are located in Philadelphia, allowing us to serve Pennsylvania and New Jersey.