A new bill is making its way through the Missouri Legislature that would change workers’ compensation law to better cover firefighters, who have a heightened risk of job-related cancer.
House Bill 1641 Would Extend Firefighter Presumption to Workers’ Compensation Law
We covered the presumptive disability law for firefighters earlier in our blog. This law, Missouri Statute 87.006, presumes that most types of infectious diseases or cancers suffered by a firefighter happened in the line of duty. However, this presumption only applies to disability law, and only impacts the retirement benefits that a firefighter can count on.
The new bill in Missouri, House Bill 1641, would extend much of that presumption into workers’ compensation law if it gets passed. By altering current Missouri Statute 287.067, House Bill 1641 would shift the burden of proving that a firefighter’s cancer happened on the job from the injured firefighter to the workers’ compensation insurer. This makes it much easier for the huge number of firefighters who get cancer.
Firefighters Covered by Proposed Law
House Bill 1641 would cover all public and paid firefighters who have accumulated at least five years on hazardous duty. It would also cover volunteer firefighters who have been assigned to at least ten years of hazardous duty – an extension of the firefighter’s presumption in disability law.
However, the law would only cover firefighters who have been on hazardous duty in the last 20 years. It would also only impact workers’ compensation claims involving temporary or permanent total disability or death, and only those that arise after August 28, 2018.
Presumption Can Be Overcome
The new presumption that would be added to workers’ compensation law is just that – a presumption. While it is hugely important to shift the burden of proof off of the injured firefighter, the presumption can still be overcome with evidence that the occupational disease was sustained off the job. House Bill 1641 allows four ways for the presumption to be rebutted:
- The firefighter’s exposure to cigarettes or other tobacco products was a significant factor in the cause or progression of the cancer at issue
- The firefighter was not exposed to a Group 1 or 2A carcinogen while on the job
- There is evidence that the cancer was incurred before the victim became a firefighter
- The firefighter is 65 or older
St. Joseph Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at the Smith Law Office
While House Bill 1641 is working its way through the Missouri Legislature, other workers keep getting hurt and suffering occupational illnesses at an alarming rate in Missouri and St. Joseph. Getting the compensation that you need if you have been hurt or suffered an illness or disease while on the job is not always easy. The workers’ compensation system is complex and often takes a lawyer to navigate.