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Firefighters Covered For 21 Kinds Of Cancer On July 1, 2019

By: Michael Arington, Associate, Jacksonville

Under newly created Fla. Stat. 112.1816, firefighters will be covered for 21 types of cancer starting July 1, 2019. The new law also provides for a one time $25,000.00 payment upon the initial diagnosis along with a lifetime of benefits for the firefighter or death benefits for firefighter’s survivors.

Although the new law states that it is “an alternative to pursuing workers’ compensation benefits under Chapter 440”, it does not rule out pursuing workers’ compensation benefits. Florida courts have applied the other parts of section 112.18 to workers’ compensation claims, so local governments are concerned about whether this new statute will also be applied to workers’ compensation claims because of terms used in the new law.

Upon the initial diagnosis of cancer, the employer must pay $25,000.00 to the firefighter and consider the firefighter to be “totally and permanently disabled” if the firefighter meets the definition of the employer’s retirement plan. For determining leave time, the employer must consider the firefighter’s diagnosis of cancer to be “an injury or illness incurred in the line of duty”.

Because those terms are the same terms used in workers’ compensation claims, local governments are concerned the new statute might create a conclusive presumption that a firefighter would be permanently totally disabled if a PTD or TTD claim was filed. The new law does not prohibit that.

Under the new law alone, all costs “must be borne solely by the employer”, who may not increase the firefighter’s contribution to participating in the retirement plan or any of the other costs associated with enhanced benefits for cancer. If the new law results in more workers’ compensation claims, the costs could bankrupt smaller local governments and prohibit larger local governments from providing many services.

If employed, the employee must have had at least five continuous years working for the employer and during the five years preceding the initial diagnosis, not have used tobacco products or worked for another employer in a job with a higher risk for where there is a heightened risk for cancer.