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What do presumption laws mean for workers’ compensation claims?

NewsPersonal Injury   November 28, 2017

Presumption laws are a critical tool for firefighters who are no longer on the job but still fighting a battle — one against cancer.

What exactly are presumption laws, how have they changed in Ohio and what do they mean for the workers’ compensation claims involved? Here are a few answers.

Presumption laws cut through a lot of the red tape that often keeps former firefighters suffering from job-related cancer from getting the workers’ compensation benefits that they need.

Firefighters are obviously exposed to massive amounts of smoke and heat, which can damage their lungs, but the materials that are burning are also often highly toxic.

However, it has taken some time for the government to acknowledge that there are too many firefighters (and other first responders) stricken with various forms of cancer for it to be a coincidence and not job-related. Numerous studies have linked premature death rates and high cancer rates to first responders — particularly among firefighters who are exposed to numerous unknown toxins that they breathe in when fighting fires.

Presumption laws are put into place by state government. They set the parameters for when a firefighter (or another first responder, depending on the state) can automatically be assumed to have cancer due to on-the-job toxic exposure.

Ohio’s presumption law started in April 2017. Not everyone is aware of it yet, and it has some significant limitations:

  • It only applies to firefighters.
  • The firefighter must have a minimum of six years in active duty for the presumption that his or her cancer is related to the job to apply.
  • The presumption does not apply to anyone who ceased active duty as a firefighter more than 20 years before the cancer diagnosis.
  • The presumption can be challenged if the firefighter was a smoker, there’s evidence he or she was never exposed to toxins or evidence that he or she had the cancer prior to becoming a firefighter.
  • Presumption can also be challenged if the former firefighter is age 70 or older.

Any firefighter whose prior workers’ comp claim based on cancer was denied because there was no clear connection between his or her cancer and his or her job should consider seeking updated legal advice in light of the changes in the law.

Source: Business Insurance, “Ohio firefighter-cancer presumption law goes into effect in April,” Louise Esola, accessed Nov. 17, 2017