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The Unintended Consequences of Florida’s Firefighter Cancer Benefits Bill

In May 2019, Governor Ron DeSantis signed into law the Firefighter Cancer Benefits Bill, which took effect in July 2019. With the signing of the legislation, Florida became the 46th state to provide a specific cancer benefit to these first responders. It was a laudable effort, considering that in 2016, 70 percent of firefighter line-of-duty deaths nationwide were cancer-related. “Here in Florida, we look after our first responders, and I am honored to sign this bill to help ensure our firefighters who are battling cancer have the tools and benefits they need,” said Governor DeSantis at the time.

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COVID-19 and Employer Manufactured Outrage Over the Use of Presumptions to Cover First Responders Under Workers' Compensation

As we noted in our previous blog, What Florida Workers Must Know About COVID-19 and Workers' Compensation, the COVID-19 pandemic has created additional challenges for Florida’s first responders. Rather than prioritizing police officers, firefighters, health workers, correctional officers, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians, employers continue to downplay the required safety precautions – mainly due to the costs associated with these precautions.

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What Florida First Responders Must Know About COVID-19 and Workers’ Compensation

The COVID-19 pandemic has presented additional challenges for first responders in the state of Florida. As we noted in a recent blog, Chapter 112 of the Florida Workers’ Compensation Act offers special statutory protection to first responders, including police officers, health workers, firefighters, correctional officers, paramedics, and emergency medical technicians.

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What Is The Standard To Receive a Line-of-Duty Pension?

If you’re a first responder, the standard to receive the Line-of-Duty pension depends on the system you work in: The Florida Retirement System (FRS) or the Municipality System. However, whether you work in the FRS or the Municipality System, you must be at Maximum Medical Improvement (MII).

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Permanent Disability Versus Temporary Disability

Firefighters, paramedics, police officers, and other first responders are generally at high risk for on-the-job injuries. However, if you sustain an injury at work, Florida workers’ compensation law, entitles you to receive certain indemnity benefits as a replacement of your lost income while you recover. Workers' compensation differs from disability insurance in that the former only applies to work-related injuries.

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Am I Required To Pay Taxes on My Workers’ Compensation Benefits?

No, you are not required to pay taxes on your workers’ compensation benefits. In the state of Florida, workers’ comp benefits, both temporary and total, and any settlement that you receive from workers’ compensation are not taxable. They are already reduced by the insurance company and paid at a reduced rate. You do not need to declare them as taxable income at the end of the year. However, according to the MyFloridaCFO.com website, “if you go back to work on light or limited duty and are still under the care of the authorized doctor, you will pay taxes on any wages earned while working. For additional information on Income Tax, you may want to visit the Internal Revenue Service website at irs.gov”.

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When Should I Retain Counsel to Represent Me Regarding My Workers’ Compensation Claim?

If you have suffered what you believe to be a workers’ compensation injury, we advise you to hire an attorney right away, rather than file a claim on your own. Why? While many benefits are available to you under Florida Law the insurance company will not reveal or provide them to you unless your attorney makes a specific request. To ensure that you receive everything to which you are entitled, it is in your best interest to contact an attorney right away.

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My Doctor Says I am at MMI and Released Me. Can I Still Get Medical Care Through Workers’ Comp?

Absolutely.

In Florida, there are two types of care provided through workers’ compensation: remedial and palliative. The medical dictionary defines remedial care as “curative, or acting as a remedy.” Or, to put it another way, remedial care means that your medical team is making you better. Once you reach a point of medical improvement where your doctor concludes that you’re not going to make any more progress, you are at a plateau, which is referred to as maximum medical improvement (MMI).

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Is PTSD Covered Under Workers’ Comp?

If you’re a first responder, the answer to this question affects not just you and your quality of life but the lives of everyone around you. First, let’s start with the clinical definition of PTSD. The American Psychiatric Association defines PTSD as “a psychiatric disorder that can occur in people who have experienced or witnessed a traumatic event, such as a natural disaster, a serious accident, a terrorist act, war/combat, rape or other violent personal assault.”

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Sep 3 2019

Recently, I had the pleasure of representing a first responder who has dedicated almost his entire life to fire service at a trial on two of his workers compensation claims. While the issues in litigation for both claims were not novel or complicated, the Employer/Carrier fought tooth and nail to keep these workers comp benefits out of my client’s hands. The benefits we sought are very common and most injured workers don’t realize that they are entitled to them under Florida law.

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