According to a report from Mother Jones, many firefighters who have developed cancer are struggling to get workers’ compensation benefits. This is happening in California, despite the fact that our state has a specific statute in place that is designed to make it easier for firefighters to obtain workers’ compensation benefits for cancer and some other conditions. Here, our Fresno workers’ comp attorney for employees discusses the report in more detail and highlights the steps that you should take if you are a firefighter who had your claim denied in California.
California has established a workers’ compensation presumption for firefighters who develop cancer (Labor Code § 3212.1). This means that if a firefighter develops cancer, it is presumed that the cancer is related to their occupation, and they are eligible for workers’ compensation benefits.
The presumption is based on the understanding that firefighters are regularly exposed to carcinogens in the line of duty, such as those present in smoke and soot. To be clear, a firefighter’s cancer is not automatically deemed a work-related condition. Still, it is presumed to be work-related unless there is compelling evidence to the contrary.
With the rise in wildfires in California, firefighters are doing more than ever to protect our communities. Our state has some of the strongest and most comprehensive workers’ comp presumption protections for firefighters in the entire country. Nonetheless, many firefighters have had their cancer-related workers’ compensation claim denied by their employer. In California, firefighters are most often employed by municipal governments (cities or counties).
As reported by Mother Jones, many city and county governments have been especially aggressive in challenging firefighter cancer claims. Workers’ comp laws presume these are job-connected ailments for firefighters. Yet, employers can challenge the claim and deny benefits on the grounds that there was an alternative cause of the cancer. Notably, the report discusses the struggles of San Jose firefighters—but it also emphasizes that many other firefighters in our state face similar issues.
Firefighters face an increased risk of developing cancer due to exposure to carcinogens in their line of duty. Recent studies have shed light on the full scope of this problem, revealing that firefighters have higher rates of cancer than the general population. Additionally, studies have cited the presence of PFAS, a class of chemicals commonly used in firefighting foams, as being connected to increased cancer risk.
Joseph C. Yrulegui is a top California workers’ compensation attorney. If you or your family member is a firefighter who developed cancer or any other long-term medical complications and you believe that they are work-related, we are here to help you protect your rights and navigate the legal claims process. Call us now or send us a direct message for a confidential, no commitment case assessment. We represent injured employees in Fresno and throughout the surrounding area.