I have heard of the “Heart and Lung Act,” but what is it?
I have had several firefighters, EMTs and paramedics ask me if they can get compensation for their heart or lung disease under “the new Heart and Lung Act.” My answer to them is that there is no “Heart and Lung Act”, but if you are a first responder, you are afforded special consideration under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. Under Section 6(f) of the Work Comp Act, any condition or impairment of a firefighter, emergency medical technician, or paramedic, who has been employed as such for at least 5 years, which results directly or indirectly from any bloodborne pathogen, lung or respiratory disease or condition, heart or vascular disease or condition, hypertension, tuberculosis, hearing loss, hernia, or cancer resulting in any disability to the first responder shall be rebuttably presumed to arise out of and in the course of their work and shall be rebuttably presumed to be causally connected to the their employment.
In a nutshell, there is no separate heart and lung law. Instead, under Illinois’ work comp law, any first responder who has worked more than 5 years and develops any heart or lung condition, hearing loss, hernia, hypertension, or cancer may file a claim with the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Commission for compensation and treatment related to that condition. Section 6(f) of the Act makes it easier to prove that those conditions are related to the first responder’s job because it is automatically presumed to be work related. When we file the case, we need only to show that 1) you are a firefighter, EMT, or paramedic, 2) you worked for 5 years or more in that capacity for the same employer or multiple employers, 3) you were diagnosed with one of the listed conditions, and 4) you suffered some partial or total disability as a result of the condition. If you prove those 4 things, then it is presumed that your condition is work related and there is no need to get a medical expert’s opinion that it is related.
However, the insurance company can then try to refute or rebut the presumption that it is work related. They would do this by having their medical expert offer an opinion about whether your condition was work related or not. If the insurance company offers no such opinion, then you would likely win automatically. But if the insurance company does try to offer a contradictory opinion, it is important that you have an attorney who knows how to overcome that opinion. At Black & Jones, we have worked with many first responders over the years. We know what evidence is needed to prove your condition is work related.
Also keep in mind that you may be entitled to an occupational disability pension under the Illinois Pension Code. This is a separate proceeding from the worker’s compensation claim. You may be entitled to PEDA (Public Employee Disability Act) benefits. If it is occupational injury that prevents you from doing your normal job, you may be entitled to an “in the line of duty” disability pension and health insurance coverage. It is important that you get an attorney who can properly advise you of all the benefits which you may be entitled to and that knows how to navigate the legal procedures to get the best possible outcome for you!
Call Black & Jones Attorneys at Law for a free consultation today to find out how we can help get you the compensation you are entitled to!