Firefighting is a dangerous profession, and many firefighters put their lives on the line every day to save others. Along with fire and smoke, firefighters also face occupational hazards from the chemicals and other volatile compounds they are exposed to, especially if those chemicals have caught fire or exploded. Some firefighters contract cancer and other life-threatening illnesses in their line of work, and many face struggles trying to get their rightful workers’ compensation benefits.
Struggling to get benefits
According to reports, North Carolina does not have a good track record approving workers’ compensation claims for firefighters who developed cancer as part of their job. Over the past 24 years, the state did not approve a single claim for medical benefits, and it only granted death benefits to the surviving family. All too often, those being treated for cancer must attend regular radiation and chemotherapy, and the treatment comes at a considerable cost.
The legislature recently passed the Firefighter Cancer Benefit Program in 2021 to provide benefits for firefighters who received a cancer diagnosis after Jan. 1, 2022. As of Aug. 2022, 73 firefighters had applied for cancer benefits, and 39 received lump-sum benefits that totaled more than $1 million. Still, many believe the program is not doing enough to provide benefits to those who risk their lives to help others.
Education and establishing contributory factors
Many firefighters do not know about the program, so the state needs to educate firefighters about their rights and options to pursue cancer-related benefits. Also, one reason many claims are denied is that no clear link was established between the job and the firefighter developing cancer. What’s more, firefighters only have two years from the date of their injury to file a claim, and with something like cancer, that creates an issue because the disease is slow to develop in most cases. Regardless, firefighters who contracted a serious illness on the job deserve benefits, and they can reach out to an experienced workers’ compensation attorney in North Carolina for assistance.