Firefighter L&I Claim Help Page For Washington State

Do Washington State Firefighters Get Helpful Workers Compensation Occupational Disease Presumptions?

Yes. Washington State Firefighters do benefit from helpful occupational disease presumptions in Washington State

RCW 51.32.185 provides helpful presumptions for respiratory diseases, heart problems, cancer and infectious diseases.

Firefighter occupational disease FAQ’s  with helpful answers.

RCW 51.08.142 provides helpful presumptions allowing stress to be treated as an occupational disease. The cause of the stress must be job related but not part of human resource personnel action. More info: PTSD & First Responders

A presumption is a legal inference that should be made after a showing of certain facts. (For example; Show that you are a firefighter diagnosed with cancer and it will be presumed it happened on the job.)  A presumption makes proof easier and less expensive. 

A rebuttable presumption is a presumption which can be over come with a showing of facts sufficient to outweigh and shift the burden of proof. (For example; You are a firefighter diagnosed with cancer and have a history of previous tobacco use.) Know that you can still win this case, it just must be done with more proof.

What is a Rebuttable Presumption

  • Use of tobacco products
  • Physical fitness
  • Weight
  • Lifestyle
  • Hereditary factors
  • Exposure from other employment or non-employment activities

Why is a presumption helpful?

Proof of L&I occupational disease claims can be difficult and expensive.  Proof of the matter is required to win a claim. A presumption establishes facts which help prove claims. This saves time and money. Without a presumption a claimant must prove their diagnosis and its relationship to work. With the presumption, when you prove the diagnosis, it will be presumed to be job related.

Who qualifies as a firefighter, a fire investigator or an EMT?

For the purpose of this law, firefighters are defined as public firefighters and private firefighters (if department includes over 50 firefighters) including supervisors, that are employed full-time, and fully compensated. Public employee fire investigators are also included. Full-time, fully compensated emergency medical technicians are also included in the definition of firefighter. (For details see RCW 41.26.030 (17) (a), (b), (c), and (h)) sets the definition of “Firefighter”

“Firefighter” is defined in RCW 41/26.030 (17)
(a) Any person who is serving on a full time, fully compensated basis as a member of a fire department of an employer and who is serving in a position which requires passing a civil service examination for firefighter, and who is actively employed as such.

(b) Anyone who is actively employed as a full-time firefighter where the fire department does not have a civil service examination.

(c) Supervisory firefighter personnel.

(d) Any full-time executive secretary of an association of fire protection districts authorized under RCW 52.12.031. The provisions of this subsection (17)(d) shall not apply to plan 2 members.

(e) The executive secretary of a labor guild, association or organization (which is an employer under subsection (14) of this section), if such individual has five years previous membership in a retirement system established in chapter 41.16 or 41.18 RCW. The provisions of this subsection (17)(e) shall not apply to plan 2 members;

(f) Any person who is serving on a full time, fully compensated basis for an employer, as a fire dispatcher, in a department in which, on March 1, 1970, a dispatcher was required to have passed a civil service examination for firefighter;

(g) Any person who on March 1, 1970, was employed on a full time, fully compensated basis by an employer, and who on May 21, 1971, was making retirement contributions under the provisions of chapter 41.16 or 41.18 RCW; and

(h) Any person who is employed on a full-time, fully compensated basis by an employer as an emergency medical technician that meets the requirements of RCW 18.71.200 or 18.73.030(12), and whose duties include providing emergency medical services as defined in RCW 18.73.030.

Does this Presumption Law Also Benefit Law Enforcement Officers?

Yes, some of the presumptions apply to law enforcement officers. RCW51.32.185 (1)(c)

Who Qualifies as a Law Enforcement Officer?

Law enforcement officers are defined as any person who is commissioned and employed on a fulltime, fully compensated basis to enforce the criminal laws of the state of Washington

Which Cancers are Covered by the Presumption Law?

  • The covered cancers are:
  • Prostate cancer (diagnosed prior to the age of 50)
  • Primary brain cancer
  • Malignant melanoma
  • Leukemia
  • Non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma
  • Bladder cancer
  • Ureter cancer
  • Colorectal cancer
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Testicular cancer
  • Kidney cancer
  • Mesothelioma
  • Stomach cancer
  • Non-melanoma skin cancer
  • Breast cancer in women
  • Cervical cancer

Why do Firefighters get a Special Occupational Disease Presumption?

Firefighters do the heavy lifting in the world of human tragedy. Every time they pull another lifeless body from the scene of a tragic accident, some of that tragedy rubs off on them. Every time they rescue and console a burned-out family who has lost everything, it chokes them up too. Each time they risk their lives while breathing cancer causing smoke, their life thereafter is affected by that. Over time these repeated experiences add up. The cumulative experiences of tragedy and exposure to toxic fumes, smoke and chemicals are what makes an occupational disease.

First responders are there for us when we need them. Now this law and it’s presumptions are  here for them.

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Chris Sharpe

Chris Sharpe

Christopher Sharpe is the go to attorney for injured persons. His law firm is helpful, honest, and knowledgeable about workers' compensation and personal injury law in the State of Washington. Chris has been helping injured Washington State workers for over 40 years. He has built his practice on thoroughly educating, honestly helping, and successfully representing workers throughout Washington State.

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