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North Carolina Firefighters Fight for Presumptive Cancer Coverage

North Carolina Firefighters Fight for Presumptive Cancer Coverage

Firefighters face exposure to many toxins and carcinogens on the job, including asbestos. As a result, cancer risk among firefighters has become a growing concern in recent years. Research shows firefighters face an elevated risk for certain types of cancer compared to the general public, including mesothelioma. Due to this risk, most states have passed presumption laws for firefighters facing cancer. These laws make it easier for firefighters facing a cancer diagnosis as a result of their duties to receive workers’ compensation.

In North Carolina, firefighters are continuing to push for presumptive cancer coverage. Since 2007, lawmakers have introduced bills to extend cancer coverage for firefighters in the state. So far, none of these bills have been successful. This has left firefighters without aid in paying their medical bills.

How Presumption Laws Help Firefighters

Presumption laws can help eligible firefighters receive a number of benefits, such as:

Having these laws in place can help firefighters pay for their medical bills and recover lost income if they can no longer work.

What Are Presumption Laws?

Presumption laws are rules permitting the court to assume a fact is true until evidence disproves the assumption.

In the case of cancer presumption laws for firefighters, the rules allow courts to assume certain types of cancer are the result of duty-related exposure. Depending on the state, there may be different conditions that must be met for the presumption to be valid.

These laws make it easier for firefighters to receive workers’ compensation or other benefits.

Presumption laws for firefighters can vary depending on the state. There may be limitations on the cancers or conditions covered. Some states may also limit coverage to those diagnosed within a certain time frame after retirement. The type of benefits awarded can also vary.

North Carolina Firefighters Lobby for More Cancer Coverage

In North Carolina, firefighters are lobbying for better coverage under cancer presumption laws. According to reports, updated versions of this bill have been introduced for approval since 2007.

Under the current state laws, only select cancers are covered if the firefighter dies. In other words, coverage is only offered as a line of duty death benefit. Current cancers covered under this condition in North Carolina include:

  • Esophageal cancer
  • Intestinal cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Testicular cancer

The most recent version of the bill, House Bill 520, was passed by the House in 2019. However, the bill stalled in the state Senate. The bill sought to label nine cancers as occupational diseases. The nine cancers included are the most common types diagnosed in firefighters.

If passed, House Bill 520 would have expanded coverage for firefighters with the following cancers:

  • Brain cancer
  • Esophageal cancer
  • Intestinal cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Oral cavity cancer
  • Rectal cancer
  • Testicular cancer

Through this law, firefighters with these cancers would be covered under North Carolina’s Workers’ Compensation Act. The law would also extend coverage beyond line of duty deaths. This means firefighters could seek workers’ compensation to cover treatment. Without the passage of this bill, firefighters are currently left to pay for these medical costs on their own.

Other Compensation Options for Firefighters Diagnosed With Mesothelioma

Firefighters diagnosed with mesothelioma or other asbestos-related diseases may be eligible for other forms of compensation.

For instance, some firefighters may be eligible to file an asbestos lawsuit. These claims are filed against the asbestos manufacturers that caused exposure. Firefighters may also be able to file asbestos trust fund claims. Some asbestos companies filed for bankruptcy and established trusts to pay current and future victims.

Surviving loved ones may also be eligible for financial assistance. An experienced lawyer can help asbestos victims and their loved ones understand their eligibility for different claim options. Compensation can help firefighters and their families pay for treatment costs, recover lost income and more.