When we think of injuries that are compensable under Minnesota workers’ compensation, we often think of basic injuries liken a broken ankle from falling off a ladder or a herniated disc from years of moving heavy boxes. We’ve also touched on subjects like mental injuries or job-related post-traumatic stress disorder, but today we want to talk about another condition that can come about as a result of conditions you were exposed to on the job. Today, we want to talk about cancer development and workers’ compensation.
Presumptive Cancer Laws
It’s very difficult to prove that your work conditions were the reason you developed cancer. For example, you can’t just and sue the community pool for workers’ compensation because you developed skin cancer 20 years after being a summer lifeguard. Since it’s so hard to prove, it’s unlikely that you’ll have any solid grounds to win a claim that argues your cancer formation was caused by your working conditions. However, this isn’t the case for one type of professional – firefighters and first responders.
Firefighters take on extreme risks each and every day. Aside from battling flames and heat, they are also battling an unseen enemy – carcinogens. When a house or apartment goes up in flames, numerous chemicals are released into the air. A firefighter’s oxygen tank and mask help shield them from these carcinogens, but they can only do so much. A recent study of nearly 30,000 firefighters in three major cities found that 68 percent of them will develop cancer at some point in their life, compared to just 22 percent of the general population. That’s a huge difference, and many states felt that something needed to be done to give firefighters even more protections under the law.
More than half of the states in the US, 33 to be exact, have passed some form of presumptive cancer law for firefighters and first responders. These presumptive cancer laws state that a firefighter or first responder can be presumed to have developed cancer while on the job under certain conditions. Minnesota is one of the 33 states that have passed a presumptive cancer law, and ours simply states that:
A firefighter or first responder can be presumed to have developed cancer as a direct result of their job if the cancer is a type that is caused by exposure to heat, radiation, or a known or suspected carcinogen, as defined by the International Agency for Research on Cancer.
Still Not Easy To Claim
So now you might be thinking that it should be pretty easy for a firefighter in Minnesota to collect workers’ compensation for their cancer development as a result of the presumptive cancer law. Well, as we’ve said time and time again on this blog, rarely is anything straightforward when it comes to filing and collecting workers’ compensation.
Recently, Fox 9 ran a story on Steve Shapira, a firefighter of 17 years who recently developed Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Shapira’s pension plan recognized his cancer as an occupational disease, but when he applied for workers’ compensation through the city of St. Paul, his claim was denied. He is appealing the decision, but it will be an uphill battle, which is a shame.
Even when it should be a cut and dry case, it’s clear that the workers’ compensation process is difficult to navigate. This is one of the main reasons we advise hiring an attorney to help build your case and file everything correctly. The insurance companies will look for any loophole to deny your claim, so your best bet is to leave it to a professional. So if you or anyone you know has developed cancer as a direct result of your work, especially if you are exposed to harmful carcinogens, contact a Minnesota workers’ compensation attorney to discuss your options.
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