Virginia Firefighters Deserve Workers’ Compensation for Cancer

By Peter DePaolis

If there is an emergency or a disaster, we rely on firefighters to respond to protect our communities. When considering the occupation, it’s easy to think about the immediate dangers they put themselves in to keep us safe. However, what we don’t consider is the long-term effects to their health.

Under current laws in Virginia, firefighters do not receive workers’ compensation for cancer, given that it’s nearly impossible for medical professionals to determine the source. Since no cause is determined, workers’ compensation is denied. However, West Virginia lawmakers are reviewing a proposed bill that may change this.

Firefighters Face More Danger of Being Exposed to Chemicals That Cause Cancer

According to a South Charleston Assistant Fire Chief, the job has become more dangerous with time. Furniture and other household appliances are manufactured with new agents that are more likely to cause cancer. The carcinogens produced from these products can be highly toxic, and they increase the risk of developing oral, respiratory, digestive or urinary cancers.

The proposed bill, which has taken nearly 10 years to put together, would provide workers’ compensation to firefighters who contract certain types of cancer and meet specific criteria that proves the cancer resulted from the occupation. The past five years have been extremely detrimental to the success of the bill. The Centers for Disease Control has been conducting research that explicitly shows a correlation between leukemia and lung cancer mortality rates with the amount of exposure firefighters face. Though, in the past, legislatures and insurance companies throughout the nation only consider this a “casual” association.

Virginia Has a Responsibility to Protect Its Firefighters

Nearly three dozen other states provide workers’ compensation to its firefighters who are living with cancer. After all, they are public servants who constantly expose themselves to dangerous carcinogens. And while this bill is a good step in the right direction, we could do more. Firefighters who develop cancer should be given the benefit of the doubt in regards to the source. The bill should not have stipulations and criteria regarding the qualifications of team members who develop cancer.

Koonz, McKenney, Johnson & DePaolis L.L.P. is a personal injury law firm that helps victims of on-the-job injuries in Virginia. Contact us today for a free consultation.


About the Author
Peter DePaolis joined the firm in 1980 and has since represented a large number of individuals involved in automobile collisions, truck accidents, bus crashes, defective products, and medical malpractice cases. A significant portion of Mr. DePaolis’ practice is devoted to working on behalf of people suffering from asbestosis, mesothelioma, and other asbestos-related cancers. He has led his firm’s fight against the asbestos industry and has recovered over $30 million in damages for asbestos victims and their families.