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Pennsylvania Workers’ Compensation for Emergency Responders

The cost of Workers’ Compensation insurance is rising in Pennsylvania and no one is happy about it. The culprit is a recently enacted state law that allows firefighters with cancer to receive Workers’ Compensation benefits if they can prove they developed the cancer from on-the-job exposure to carcinogens at fire scenes. The cost of Workers’ Compensation is projected to be so high because of the new law that two insurers have dropped Workers’ Compensation coverage for volunteer firefighters.

Pennsylvania’s Firefighter Cancer Prevention Act took effect in July 2011 and designates cancer as an occupational disease. The Act allows both paid and volunteer firefighters to collect rehabilitation costs, death benefits and lost wages if they can show the cancer is from professional exposure. Firefighters also have longer to submit a claim than in other workers’ compensation situations. A firefighter with four years on the job can file a claim up to 11 1/2 years after leaving service.

The Cost

The cost to insurers for cancer treatment is potentially in the hundreds of thousands of dollars per firefighter. Because of the high prospective costs with the new law, insurers are starting to deny townships and other municipalities Workers’ Compensation coverage for firefighters. Thus, the new law is indirectly forcing fire departments to shift over to the State Workers’ Insurance Fund (SWIF).

Unfortunately, SWIF premiums are sometimes double the amount of those required by private insurers. For example, where Penn Township paid around $30,000 a year for Workers’ Compensation coverage for five departments, the SWIF quoted the Township an annual premium of $64,571.

Workers’ Compensation premiums are consistently more expensive for emergency responders such as firefighters, police officers and EMTs. Firefighters and the police in particular find themselves in life threatening situations on a regular basis, exposing them to a significantly higher amount of risk of injury. EMTs come into contact with communicable diseases and risk contracting them as they treat injured patients. Because of the additional risks, insurers want a higher premium.

Other Coverage Available

In addition to Workers’ Compensation benefits for injured emergency and law enforcement personnel, Pennsylvania also provides death benefits to a surviving spouse, a minor child(ren) or parent(s) of deceased emergency responders. In fiscal year 2012-2013, Pennsylvania pays a one-time death benefit of $118,498.37. State Worker’s Compensation pays for burial expenses and part of the deceased’s wage to a surviving spouse and/or child(ren). Educational assistance is also available.

Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation Lawyers at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC: Personalized and Responsive Legal Representation for Injured Workers

With Pennsylvania’s new law including cancer in Workers’ Compensation coverage, insurance premiums are on the rise. Moreover, because the payout for expensive cancer treatments is high there is a greater likelihood that insurers will deny many cancer claims. If you or a loved one is an emergency responder and have been denied workers’ compensation for your on-the-job injury, contact an experienced Philadelphia Workers’ Compensation lawyer at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC to discuss your situation and your options. Call our offices today at 215-569-8488 or contact us online.