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Can You Receive Workers’ Comp If You’re Diagnosed Years Later?


Indiana Public Radio ran a story in late September about Steve Dillman, a retired Indianapolis firefighter, who can trace his prostate cancer back to a fire his station fought on August 1, 1985. Recalling the events, Fire State 11 was dispatched downtown on the first to American Fletcher National Bank warehouse. Dillman along with the rest of his firefighters noticed serve discomfort and pain after the flames were put out. Several from Dillman’s station noticed extensive sweating and skin peeling. This fire was the one that Dillman claims caused his cancer.

The first cancer diagnosis did not come immediately after the fire; instead, his first round with prostate cancer was 16 years later and throat cancer 23 years later. Dillman’s personal story and tragedy sheds a bleak light on firefighters’ working conditions and increasing cancer diagnoses. Firefighters who have been diagnosed die from cancer at higher rates than the general population diagnosed.

Indiana, along with 32 other states, have enacted legislation for firefighters to help cover the costs of cancer treatments and diagnosis. This legislation is known as presumptive law. It’s not the most common, but more than half the states in America do have some form of this broad, nonspecific law that can be interpreted in various ways to cover any cancer a firefighter experiences.

Indiana’s Presumptive Law


To fall under Indiana’s presumptive law, employees must be “at risk for occupational exposure.” That evaluates an individual’s risk in performing the basic responsibility of the individual’s employment. The law details the pursuit, apprehension, and arrest of any law violators that may cause individuals to become exposed to a known carcinogen, substance, or condition that affects the individual’s cardiovascular or respiratory system.

Even though that may be a complicated and complex definition and breakdown of the presumptive law, it is good to note that experienced attorneys have the complex knowledge associated with workers’ compensation claims that can be pursed with presumptive law.

Presumptive Law and Workers’ Compensation


How is presumptive law and workers’ compensation related, you may ask? Presumptive law is the way to bypass layers of red tape and shift the burden of proof onto the employer rather the employee. In typical workers’ compensation cases, employees have to find evidence that says the employer is at fault, but this law flips that: Employers must prove that firefighters’ working conditions were not contributing factors to the development of cancer.

Just because you happen to have cancer and were a firefighter doesn’t open the floodgates to a quick and easy workers’ compensation claim. Indiana does require a claim to be submitted that answers to tobacco product usage, what specific fire caused the cancer, and in what time frame the cancer developed. To the last question, it’s crucial that the cancer developed within at least five years of your retirement, if not sooner. If you report that you have used tobacco within the last five years, you are automatically not covered under presumption law.

Hire a Muncie Workers’ Compensation Attorney

In Muncie and the surrounding Delaware County, there are firefighters who risk their lives as a daily responsibility. Knowing that they are medically protected by the state can be comforting, but since there are numerous limitations to presumptive law, it can be tricky to win in court without the experience of Muncie workers’ compensation attorneys. If you or a loved one has suffered from cancer caused by a fire, reach out to the attorneys at Hensley Legal Group for your free consultation. You can call or contact us online today.