How Arizona’s presumptive cancer law benefits firefighters, construction workers and others
Even though it is common for people to think of workers’ compensation in the context of sudden injuries and accidents, there are occupations with high cancer rates that account for many occupational injury and illness claims. Occupational cancer accounts for almost 100,000 new cancer diagnoses each year in the United States, including thousands of cases in Arizona.
Arizona’s presumptive cancer law provides the basis for these types of cases.
What types of cancer are most common in the workforce?
Some of the most common types of cancer in the workforce in Arizona include:
- Lung cancer
- Bladder cancer
- Brain cancer
- Colon cancer
- Esophageal cancer
- Skin cancer
- Testicular cancer
Which industries are responsible for the highest cancer rates?
Some of the professions that see above-average cases of occupational cancer include:
- Industrial jobs. Many people who work in industrial settings face exposure to chemicals known to have carcinogenic effects. Exposure to these types of chemicals is more likely when employers fail to provide the necessary personal protective equipment. Many employees in these types of professions endure long-term exposure to these compounds.
- Construction. Construction workers often end up working in settings that cause exposure to toxic substances that are known to cause cancer. Many older buildings use insulation that contains asbestos, while wood treatments, paint and other products commonly used in construction might also contain chemicals capable of causing cancer.
- Firefighting. Firefighters face frequent exposure to settings where cancer is a risk. Burning structures can cause exposure to chemicals within the items that burn. In addition, chemicals such as bromochlorodifluoromethane that are used to help extinguish fires are known for being carcinogenic.
Is cancer covered under Arizona workers’ compensation law?
Cancer may be covered under Arizona workers’ compensation law as a form of occupational illness in certain situations. The required circumstances include cancer having a connection to work-related activities as well as not having been caused by non-workplace circumstances.
Additional criteria include:
- The department where the employee worked having been informed of carcinogens that were present
- The worker having been exposed to the carcinogens
- The worker performed the hazardous duties for at least 5 years
- The employee passed their pre-employment physical
How does the workers’ compensation process in Arizona work?
Arizona workers’ compensation provides workers with financial benefits when they are unable to work due to an occupational injury or illness, such as a cancer diagnosis. If the effects are particularly debilitating in the case of cancer, you may be eligible for longer-term benefits such as disability.
Some of the possible benefits include:
- Doctors’ and other medical visits
- Treatments and surgeries
- Lost wages for the time you miss work
- Wrongful death payments to your family (in the event of death)
The maximum amount that you are eligible to receive will vary depending on whether you are considered permanently injured or can return to work in some capacity. Under state law, the maximum amount you can receive is 2/3 of your previous average monthly wage.
Arizona’s presumptive cancer law automatically treats the diagnosis of certain types of cancer—such as brain and bladder cancer in firefighters and police officers—as occupational illnesses. The treatment of these types of cancer as workplace illnesses allows these workers in Arizona to receive the compensation that they deserve.
Steps to take after a work injury or illness diagnosis
Proving that your cancer is related to your job might be difficult. However, you should still take certain steps to have better odds of winning your claim. Workers’ compensation is a complex process that requires attention to specific deadlines.
Always notify your employer as soon as you receive a diagnosis. Their workers’ compensation insurance company will need to have access to the medical records that document your cancer diagnosis and any treatments.
Workers who receive a cancer diagnosis and believe it is work-related will need to apply for workers’ compensation benefits no more than 1 year after the onset of their illness. Hearings will likely be scheduled during the process, and it is essential to be aware of the dates, times and locations. You will have 30 days to file an appeal if you disagree with the decision.
Beating occupational cancer isn’t easy, and the process to get the compensation that you need may seem overwhelming. However, having the right work injury attorney by your side to walk you through the process can make all the difference. Having an attorney working with you during this difficult time is the best way to ensure that your case is getting the proper attention that it deserves.