Earlier this month, a Florida appellate court issued a written opinion in a workers’ compensation case that upheld a lower court’s decision to apply the “firefighter’s presumption” to the plaintiff’s claim that he sustained coronary artery disease as a result of his employment. Ultimately, the court held that, despite some evidence that the firefighter had some risk factors of coronary artery disease, the presumption was proper. Furthermore, since the employer failed to present evidence to dispute the major contributing cause of the coronary artery disease, the employer failed to overcome the presumption.
The Effect of Presumptions in Workers’ Compensation Cases
In some situations, it is difficult or impossible for a party to obtain the evidence they would need to prove their workers’ compensation case, despite that party’s best efforts. However, out of an interest in fairness, state legislatures have enacted statutes that create presumptions that injured workers can use to help establish their case. For example, in both Florida and Georgia, a firefighter who is diagnosed with heart or lung disease is presumed to have gotten that disease through his or her on-the-job exposure.
When a presumption applies in a workers’ compensation case, the burden to disprove the presumption shifts to the employer. The employer must then submit some evidence to overcome the presumption, or the presumption will stand, and the worker’s injuries will be determined to be work-related for the purpose of a workers’ compensation claim.
The Firefighter’s Presumption Is Upheld
In the case discussed above, the employer presented evidence that the firefighter possessed some serious risk factors for coronary artery disease, including that he had high cholesterol and a history of smoking, as well as a family history of early on-set coronary artery disease. Thus, the court determined that the employer did present some evidence to counter the presumption. However, the court explained that there was insufficient evidence to overcome the presumption that the firefighter’s exposure was the “major contributing cause” of his coronary artery disease.
The court explained that, under the presumption, the firefighter was entitled to a presumption not only that his injuries were work-related but also that they were caused by the exposure at work. In this case, the employer only presented evidence that there were other potentially contributing causes, rather than that those other causes were the “major contributing cause.” As a result, the employer’s appeal was dismissed.
Have You Been Injured on the Job?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured on the job in Georgia, you may be entitled to workers’ compensation benefits until you are able to return to work. Presumptions of work-relatedness apply to certain professions, making proving these claims easier for injured workers. However, employers routinely dispute workers’ compensation claims for a variety of reasons. The skilled attorneys at the Georgia law firm of J. Franklin Burns, P.C. work diligently and tirelessly to seek workers’ compensation benefits for their injured clients. Call 404-303-7770 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated workers’ compensation attorney today.