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URGENT: Proposed Amendment to Workers’ Compensation Act Seeks to Erase Presumption Afforded to First Responders

Written by Brent Eames

February 22, 2017

Given the fact that first responders have some of the most physically and mentally stressful jobs in existence, it should come as no surprise that numerous medical studies have confirmed that these occupations are associated with a high rate of death from cardiovascular causes. A recent study from the New England Journal of Medicine has indicated that cardiovascular events, largely due to coronary heart disease, account for 45% of deaths among firefighters on duty. On account of these risks, the Illinois legislature has included special protections for first responders under section 6(f) of the Workers’ Compensation Act, which provides as follows:

“Any condition or impairment of health of an employee employed as a Firefighter, Emergency Medical Technician (EMT) or Paramedic which results directly or indirectly from any bloodborne pathogen, lung or respiratory disease or condition, heart or vascular disease or condition, hypertension, tuberculosis, or cancer resulting in any disability (temporary, permanent, total or partial) to the employee shall be rebuttally presumed to arise out of and in the course of employees fire fighting, EMT or paramedic employment and further shall be rebutally presumed to be causally connected to the hazards or exposures of the employment. This presumption shall also apply to any hernia or hearing loss suffered by an employee employed as a Firefighter, EMT, or Paramedic, however, this presumption shall not apply to any employee who has been employed as a Firefighter, EMT or Paramedic for less than five years at the time he or she files an Application for Adjustment of Claim concerning this condition or impairment with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission. The finding and decision of the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission under only the rebuttal of presumption provision of the subsection shall not be admissible or be deemed Res judicata in any disability claim under the Illinois Pension Code arising out of the same medical condition; however, this sentence makes no change to the law within Krohe v. City of Bloomington, 204 Ill. 2d 392.”

However, in Springfield, House Bill 3526 has been introduced by Representative Grant Wehrli (R) of the 41st District which encompasses portions of DuPage County and Will County. This bill seeks to erase Section 6(f) in its entirety, thereby eliminating the presumption of compensability afforded to first responders for claims based upon diagnoses of respiratory diseases, heart diseases, hypertension, tuberculosis, or cancers in the course of their employment. This is an insult to the workers in Illinois who routinely put their lives on the line and sacrifice their health and well-being for the good of the public.

We urge you to call your representatives in Springfield and demand they oppose House Bill 3526.

The content of this blog is intended for informational purposes only and does constitute or establish an attorney-client relationship, nor constitute legal advice. If you wish to discuss any further aspect of the material contained herein, please contact Brent Eames at Eames Law Group, Ltd.

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