Firefighters have dangerous jobs and regularly risk their own lives while protecting other people and property. In the process, they often sustain injuries not common to other professions.
While firefighters are eligible for the same workers’ compensation benefits as other employees, they also have additional benefits because of the nature of their work.
In California, the workers’ compensation program covers injuries that are specific to a particular industry. The law shifts the burden of proof for these select injuries from the employee to the employer. In other words, the employer must prove that the injury was not job-related rather than the employee proving that it was. Cancer, for instance, is common among firefighters because they often encounter carcinogens inside burning structures and have frequent exposure to smoke inhalation. Therefore, according to California law, if a firefighter gets lung cancer, the presumption is that it was job-related.
In addition to the above, firefighters injured on the job can receive additional compensation. Under Labor Code 4850, firefighters may be eligible for up to one year of full salary while on a leave of absence after an injury, compared to disability benefits that only provide two-thirds of their salary. If still unable to return to work after one year, the individual can file a workers’ comp claim at that point.
California workers’ compensation policies extend coverage to volunteer firefighters as well as those the city employs.
These special workers’ compensation protections also extend to police officers and emergency medical technicians, both of whom are at high risk for injury while protecting the public.