Those Firefighters who suffer an injury by accident arising out of or during the performance of an authorised activity in or outside Victoria are also entitled to WorkCover compensation.
Furthermore, spouses, domestic partners, family members and dependents of volunteer members who died as a result of their injuries are also entitled to compensation.
Claims by career firefighters are administered by WorkSafe whereas claims by volunteers are currently administered by the Country Fire Authority. Statutory compensation is 'no fault' compensation, meaning the career or volunteer firefighter can obtain compensation without proving their injury was due to the fault of another person or organisation.
Unfortunately, firefighters are susceptible to developing several cancers due to the nature of their work; increasing their exposure to carcinogenic substances.
In 2019 the Victorian Labour Government followed other States and introduced the Firefighters' Presumptive Rights Compensation and Fire Services Legislation Amendment (Reform) Bill 2019 into Parliament. Victoria is the second last state to introduce such legislation. This Bill received Royal Assent on 2 July 2019 and is now law, providing presumptive rights to career and volunteer firefighters who have served in operational roles and who have been diagnosed with cancer, meaning they will be automatically entitled to WorkCover compensation under the presumption that their cancer was caused by their service, provided they have been diagnosed from 1 June 2016 with one of the 12 listed cancers and had served a prescribed minimum number of years.
The Scheme is limited to where a diagnosis occurs during the course of a firefighter's service or within 10 years of them ceasing to serve as a firefighter. There is also an exception to the prescribed minimum number of years where the firefighter attended an exceptional exposure event. Similarly, to pro-claimed diseases, this presumption though can be rebutted by WorkSafe or the Country Fire Authority if those authorities can prove that the cancer was not caused by the firefighter's service as a firefighter.
The scheme is a WorkSafe Scheme and covers all career fighters employed by Metropolitan Fire Brigade, Country Fire Authority and Fire Rescue Victoria as well as CFA volunteers. The Government will also be introducing an ex-gratio support fund for firefighters (and the families of deceased firefighters) who miss out on compensation under the presumptive rights scheme due to not meeting the timing requirements.
Previously, firefighters who had been diagnosed with cancer could have claimed WorkCover compensation via WorkSafe if they were a career firefighter or via the Country Fire Authority if a volunteer. They had to however prove that the nature of their work significantly increased the risk of them developing the cancer or they have suffered a recurrence, deterioration, aggravation, acceleration or exacerbation of a pre-existing cancer. In other words, there were no presumptive rights to WorkCover compensation. These avenues are still available to those career and volunteer fighters who are not covered by the Presumptive Rights Act.
If you, or someone you know, is currently or has previously worked or volunteered as a firefighter (or auxiliary volunteer) where they may have been exposed to a hazardous substances, it is recommended you consult a general practitioner or specialist to determine if you have any conditions or diseases.
Zaparas Lawyers has a team of lawyers who specialise in helping people submit legal claims related to illness and disease caused by an occupation, and help to maximise their entitlements under the WorkCover system. If you or someone you know is at risk of developing and/or has been diagnosed with an occupational disease, contact Zaparas Lawyers now for an obligation free discussion about your potential legal entitlements.