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Not injured on the job but think your cancer may be work-related?

Many workers’ compensation claims may seem obvious. Fractures related to a construction worker falling off a scaffold, nursing staff suffering back injuries while transferring a patient and concussions for commercial driver involvement in motor vehicle accidents might all seem like pretty clear-cut workplace injuries.

But in some cases, such as with firefighters, exposure to certain chemicals can lead to serious illness, including cancer. Though these diagnoses may not occur for an extended period of time, you may be able to recover compensation for cancer caused on duty.

What research suggests

Research from the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) suggests there may be a connection between firefighting and cancer. As opposed to the general United States population, cancer rates appear elevated in otherwise healthy firefighters. For example, asbestos-related respiratory diseases such as mesothelioma may be a result of known carcinogens often encountered in fighting a fire.

The Firefighter Cancer Support Network (FCSN) is a nonprofit organization providing resources and support to cancer-stricken firefighters and their families. They assert that “Firefighters have a 9 percent higher risk of being diagnosed with cancer than the general U.S. population.”

Does cancer qualify you for workers’ compensation benefits?

New York has laws to cover certain firefighters diagnosed with cancer. These presumptive laws serve as “evidence” that specific cancer diagnoses for firefighters result from executing job duties. Yet, many municipalities fight firefighters’ work-related cancer claims.

Presumptive cancer diagnoses include:

  • Melanoma
  • Leukemia
  • Lymphoma

Brain cancer is also included, as well as any cancer related to the digestive, reproductive or urinary systems.

If you chose to fight fires and, as a result, are fighting for your life, you may be able to receive workers’ compensation benefits related to your cancer. There is help available for you even if your claim was denied. While your job puts you in danger on a regular basis, it is important to recognize the governing regulations established to protect your wellbeing.

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  • Walter J. Roesch IV
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