Maryland Firefighters Will Benefit from New Workers’ Compensation Law
Firefighters in Maryland will benefit from expanded workers’ compensation protection with the signing of a new law, according to a press release from the Office of Governor Larry Hogan. Now firefighters will have a presumed occupational disease if they contract certain types of cancer.
The governor recently signed House Bill 595 (H.B. 595) into law, which recognizes an increased risk of occupational disease for firefighters and similar public safety employees. These employees face abnormal hazards in the performance of their official duties. Consequently, Maryland law provides a presumption concerning specific occupational diseases.
If such an employee contracts certain disabilities or diseases, Maryland law presumes a connection with their public safety duties. In these cases, the employee is not required to provide additional evidence of a connection between their work and the occupational disease or disability.
The new occupational disease presumptions under H.B. 595 only apply to certain public safety employees. Specifically, H.B. 595 includes the following types of covered employees:
- Volunteer firefighters;
- Permanent or career firefighters;
- Firefighting instructors;
- Emergency rescue members;
- Advanced life support members; and
- Fire marshals employed in various capacities.
For firefighters and the other covered employees above, they have a presumed occupational disease if they contract:
- Heart disease that leads to disability or death;
- Hypertension that leads to disability or death;
- Lung disease that leads to disability or death; or
- Leukemia or brain, breast, multiple myeloma, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, prostate, rectal, testicular, or throat cancer.
That being said, firefighters and the other covered employees above do not automatically qualify for the new occupational disease presumptions under H.B. 595. They must also meet the existing eligibility requirements under Maryland law. Precisely, the covered employee must:
- Have cancer or leukemia from contact with a toxic material while performing their official duties;
- Complete at least 10 years of service in any combination of the positions listed above;
- Be unable to perform their official duties due to cancer or leukemia; and
- If employed in a volunteer capacity, satisfy applicable physical standards before starting work.
Assuming a firefighter meets the conditions above, they are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for an occupational disease. Furthermore, these benefits operate in addition to any retirement benefits to which the public safety employee may be entitled.
On the other hand, there is an upper limit on the combined total of workers’ compensation and retirement benefits for these employees. The combination of these benefits cannot exceed what the firefighter or the other public safety employee made while employed. Stated otherwise, the final weekly pay rate is the upper limit of workers’ compensation and retirement benefits.
Do You Need Legal Help?
If you have legal questions about workers’ compensation in Maryland, it can be greatly helpful to reach out to an accomplished Baltimore workers’ compensation attorney. The attorneys at Iamele & Iamele, LLP in Baltimore, Maryland, assist clients with filing workers’ compensation claims and fighting for applicable benefits. If you need legal help, contact us today for a free initial consultation.