Cancer Benefits for North Carolina Firefighters
When firefighters break bones, suffer burns, or fall off ladders, they file workers’ compensation claims, right? It’s almost automatic. Firefighters know that is just what you do, if you want your medical bills paid and your time out of work covered. But when firefighters get diagnosed with cancer, something odd happens; usually, they file no workers’ compensation report at all. Nada. Nil. Zip, according to a recent investigative report by the Charlotte Observer revealing that only TWICE has the North Carolina Industrial Commission awarded death benefits for firefighters who die of cancer.
So why would hardworking, deserving North Carolina firefighters toss their legal rights out the window? Maybe because nobody bothered to tell them about the new laws. Here, Ricci Law Firm explains:
Workers’ Compensation for Firefighters
For years, the North Carolina Workers’ Compensation Act has provided death benefits and expenses to family survivors of firefighters who die in the line of duty. However, only recently (2016 and 2017) did the laws change to make firefighter cancer victims eligible for benefits. So far, the covered types of cancer include mesothelioma, testicular cancer, intestinal cancer, and esophageal cancer, but that list is growing as North Carolina lawmakers, under pressure from firefighting lobbying groups, consider adding more. In most cases, North Carolina firefighters are only entitled to death benefits, not disability benefits, under the Workers’ Compensation Act. However, this area of the law is constantly changing, and there may be other ways for firefighters to receive the benefits they deserve.
During this time of legal transition, it is more important than ever for firefighters and their families to contact a workers’ compensation attorney at Ricci Law Firm if a firefighter contracts cancer due to work.
Cancer in Firefighters
The International Association of Firefighters says cancer is now the leading cause of death among firefighters. And the nonprofit group Firefighter Cancer Support Network reports that, in 2016, cancer caused 70% of firefighter workplace deaths.
The most common types of cancer among firefighters are leukemia, lymphoma or myeloma. According to an NBC news report, while firefighters used to be exposed to fires from natural products like wood, they now inhale more toxic chemicals released from the burning of synthetic materials.
Like firefighters across the country, those in North Carolina also are finding themselves victims of cancer. The IAFF, a firefighter’s union, reports nine cancer deaths among North Carolina paid fighters in 2010, not including volunteer firefighters. The Charlotte Fire Department alone reports receiving 41 cancer claims in only a three-year period from 2013-2017. The number of diagnosed but unreported claims across North Carolina, of course, is unknown.
What to do
As with any serious medical condition, early intervention is key. The attorneys at Ricci Law Firm regularly help their clients find the medical treatment they need. Plus, thanks to increased awareness of the link between firefighting and cancer in North Carolina firefighters, the Levine Cancer Institute now offers North Carolina fire departments free cancer screenings and educational sessions.
To find out more about the workers’ compensation rights of firefighters battling or succumbing to cancer, contact the experienced workers’ compensation team at Ricci Law Firm.