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Work-caused Sickness Can Get You Workers’ Compensation

Work-caused illnesses and diseases can be argued as grounds for workers’ compensation.

Last month, a Bedford, Texas firefighter won a two-year dispute over whether or not he was entitled to workers’ compensation. The firefighter, Keith Long, suffers from stage 4 colon cancer, a disease he attributes to years on the job where he has been subjected to large amounts of carcinogens.

The Texas Municipal League claimed that firefighting is not proven to cause colon cancer according to the World Health Organization’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, so ordinary life diseases should not be covered by compensation. Instead, the compensation is reserved for work-related injuries only.

The judge ruled in favor of Long’s case, arguing that the illness was occupational and within “the course and scope of his employment.” Thus, he was entitled to compensation.

Long had noticed problems with his health in January 2013, where the 51 year old felt sharp pains in his side. After a visit to his doctor, Long was diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer that had spread all the way to his liver and lungs. A firefighter for more than 20 years, Long disputed that such extended exposure to fire truck exhaust, heat, smoke and chemicals put him at a higher risk of developing this cancer.

Without being granted workers’ compensation, Long was not reimbursed financially and had to use sick as well as vacation days for cancer treatments and appointments.

Texas has a disability law stating that they acknowledge cancer as an occupational illness under certain conditions, such as the intake of smoke and chemicals as recognized by the International Agency for Research on Cancer. As of this year, Texas altered their law so that insurance carriers are required to offer written information on why a claim is rejected.