Another change to the Ohio workers’ compensation laws is coming on April 6, 2017 – this time in regard to firefighters. Ohio Revised Code section 4123.68(X) becomes effective on April 6, 2017 and it will hopefully make it easier for firefighters who are diagnosed with cancer to prove their workers’ compensation claims.
The statute states that a firefighter who is exposed to certain carcinogens for at least six years is presumed to have suffered a compensable occupational disease. This means that all the firefighter needs to do is prove that he/she was exposed to the carcinogen for the required time, and received a diagnosis of cancer – a very different requirement than injured workers have in most work injury claims.
Although the presumption may reduce the requirements on the firefighter, the presumption can be rebutted by the firefighter’s employer. The statute lists several rebuttals including but not limited to the firefighter being a smoker or being age 70 or older. There are also other restrictions on this type of claim including that the firefighter has to have suffered certain disabilities or death to be eligible for compensation.
Time Limit on Bringing a Claim
Since the firefighter cancer statute is listed as an occupational disease, it is subject to the statute of limitation noted in Ohio Revised code section 4123.85. That statute provides that occupational disease claims must be filed within two years after disability due to the disease began, or within such longer period as does not exceed six months after diagnosis of the occupational disease by a licensed physician or within two years after death occurs.
The Ohio Supreme Court in the case of White v. Mayfield established a three-part test to use in interpreting when a disability due to disease has begun. It ruled that a disability due to an occupational disease shall be deemed to have begun as of the date on which the a worker’s compensation claimant first became aware through medical diagnosis that he/she was suffering from such disease or the date on which he/she first received medical treatment for such disease or the date claimant first quit work on account of such disease, whichever date is the latest.
If you are a firefighter who has had the misfortune of contracting cancer, you can see from the discussion above that it is not easy to traverse the minefield ahead of you in processing your possible occupational disease claim. Your best course of action is to contact The Friedman Law Firm so we can guide you through this minefield.
If you are concerned about contacting us due to our legal fee, you should know that we are only paid if we are successful in processing your claim and our payment comes out of awards that we obtain for you.