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Firefighters and Cancer as an Occupational Disease

Firefighters hold an honored place in American life - for good reason. Police officers, they put their bodies and lives on the line every time they go on duty.

Bruce Springsteen lauded this spirit of service in his notable song "Into the Fire," which was inspired by the first responders who went into the burning World Trade Center buildings a decade ago.

Pennsylvania was of course also deeply affected by the events of 9-11. After all, one of the planes went down in Shanksville, Pa., after heroic resistance from passengers aboard.

More recently, Pennsylvania passed a new state law regarding workers' compensation for volunteer firefighters. The law makes them eligible for benefits if they get cancer due to exposure to carcinogens present at fire scenes.

Understandably, there is concern about the cost of the law to municipal governments. In fact, two insurers that specialize in coverage for municipalities have dropped workers' compensation insurance coverage for volunteer (unpaid) firefighters.

This has left several local governments looking to get coverage through a state fund, the State Workers' Insurance Fund or SWIF. The municipalities affected include Penn Township, Murrysville, and Hempfield Township.

The name of the new law is the Firefighter Cancer Prevention Act. It recognizes cancer as an occupational disease for both paid and volunteer firefighters. The law allows a firefighter with at least four years of service to wait as long as 11 ½ years after the end of service to file a workers' compensation claim in certain cases.

The additional time is allowed when a firefighter develops cancer due to on-the-job exposure to certain carcinogens or hazardous materials.

Source: "Some Insurers Drop Workers' Comp for Pa. Volunteers," Firehouse, Chris Foreman, 9-6-12

Our firm handles situations similar to those discussed in this post. To learn more about our practice, please visit our Pennsylvania workers' compensation page.

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