A new state study conducted in Richmond, Virginia, found that the state’s workers’ compensation system unfairly blocks firefighters and public safety employees from receiving the health benefits they deserve for the diseases and injuries they suffer because of their jobs.
The Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission (JLARC) recommended the state consider changing the law to add two forms of cancer—brain and testicular cancer—to its list of diseases presumed to have been caused by chemicals firefighters are exposed to when fighting fires. The report also recommends the addition of colon cancer, even though current studies are less conclusive on its link to work-related exposure.
The study concluded that the state puts unreasonable requirements on workers to prove their illnesses were caused by their work. It suggested changing the law to reduce the number of years firefighters with eligible illnesses must have served in order to qualify for compensation, and eliminating the requirement that their service be “continuous.”
Under the current system, firefighters suffering from eligible forms of cancer are often denied benefits because they can’t prove exposure to a specific carcinogen—a process medical experts have said would be difficult and costly. Firefighters in Virginia are also required to have served 12 years before they can qualify for compensation, which is the highest in the U.S. Most states only require five years and allow the service to be cumulative rather than continuous.
On the other hand, the study recommended the state increase the years of service required for public safety workers to demonstrate their heart disease was caused by their work because research has shown the risk for heart disease increases by length of service.
The study also suggested the state change the law to allow compensation for post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Public safety workers often have their PTSD claims denied because triggering events are “expected” in their line of work.
JLARC staff also recommended policymakers change the law to allow workers to qualify for compensation for cumulative injuries caused by repetitive tasks, such as back injuries from repeatedly lifting heavy objects.
The study found broader problems with the current system, which is plagued by delays and insufficient information for workers on how to correctly file claims. It isn’t clear to workers, who sometimes don’t even know they have a right to file for compensation with the state, or appeal an initial denial from their insurer. A survey of public safety workers who were injured on the job in the past five years revealed that almost half weren’t aware that they could dispute an insurance company’s denial of their claims.
This is why it is crucial for anyone injured while on the job or diagnosed with a work-related condition to hire an attorney who can help them properly file a claim. A competent attorney will ensure you receive fair compensation from your insurer and help you file an appeal if your claim is denied.
South Florida Workers’ Compensation Attorney
If you or your loved one was injured due to a workplace accident, you should hire an attorney. Contact Brian Silber, P.A. for a free initial consultation with one of South Florida’s most experienced workers’ compensation defense attorneys.