Bills that would make it easier for the members of several public service occupations to qualify for workers’ compensation are making the rounds in Annapolis. Paid emergency medical service providers and Allegany County correctional officers and state correctional officers would receive a presumption that certain cancers, lung or heart disease or hypertension from which they suffer stemmed from their jobs. And, Maryland state correctional officers would receive a presumption of compensability that heart disease or hypertension that is more severe than the individual’s prior condition and that results in partial or total disability or death is compensable under worker’s comp.
Presumptions can have a significant impact on a workers’ compensation claim, making it easier to prove that injuries are compensable under workers’ compensation laws. A presumption allows a court to assume that a fact is true unless there is more evidence provided which disproves the presumption. For example, if a child is born of two people who are married and living together, then the presumption is that the husband is the child’s father. Under a presumption in workers’ compensation, it is assumed that certain diseases or injuries are the result of the employees’ work and, as a result, additional evidence in the filing of a claim for workers’ compensation is not needed.
Some presumptions already exist in Maryland workers’ compensation law. Volunteer and career firefighters, fire marshals, volunteer rescue squad members and volunteer advanced life support unit members have a presumption for heart disease, hypertension or lung cancer that results in partial or total disability or death as well as for certain cancers. Deputy sheriffs, police officers and correctional officers of certain Maryland counties are under a presumption for heart disease or hypertension that results in partial or total disability or death.
Senate Bill 1099 extends to all paid emergency medical services providers an occupational disease presumption for heart disease, hypertension or lung disease that results in partial or total disability or death and for specified cancers and leukemia that are caused by contact with a toxic substance the individual has encountered in the line of duty. It’s the first time that the bill has been introduced in Maryland’s Senate. There is no companion bill in Maryland’s House of Representatives. If made into law, claims arising after Oct. 1, 2014 would be affected.
Senate Bill 1023/HB 1445 would extend the presumption of compensability under workers’ compensation to include Allegany County correctional officers who suffer from heart disease or hypertension that results in partial or total disability or death. It would also allow workers’ comp benefits to be added to retirement benefits subject to limitation. Claims arising after Oct. 1, 2014 would be affected.
A third bill would also extend an occupational disease presumption to state correctional officers for heart disease or hypertension that is more severe than the individual’s prior condition and that results in partial or total disability or death. The bill would also change the definition of “public safety employee” to include state correctional officers, making those officers eligible for enhanced workers’ compensation benefits.
The Maryland workers’ compensation attorneys at Belsky, Weinberg & Horowitz have many years of experience dealing with legal presumptions and the impact presumptions can have on workers’ compensation claims.