New Law Expands First Responders Presumed Coverage Fund
On November 30, 2021, Governor Gretchen Whitmer signed into law House Bill 4171, which expanded eligibility under the First Responder Presumed Coverage Fund.
The First Responder Presumed Coverage Fund (established under Section 405 of the Workers’ Disability Compensation Act) was created to pay claims made in connection with a presumption of work-relatedness of various cancers contracted by fully paid firefighters who have been employed for 60 months or more and have been “exposed to the hazards incidental to fire suppression, rescue, or emergency medical services in the performance of his or her duties.”
Under the provision, an injured worker can suspend a workers’ compensation claim against his or her employer and instead seek “like benefits” against the fund itself. The presumption of relatedness only applies if the claim is made against the fund and not if the employee elects to instead proceed with his or her workers’ compensation claim.
The presumption can be rebutted by “scientific evidence” that the firefighter claimant had been “a substantial and consistent user of cigarettes or other tobacco products” within the 10 years preceding the claim and that this use “was a significant factor in the cause, aggravation, or progression of the cancer.” Mere evidence of tobacco use alone is not sufficient to rebut the presumption.
HB 4171 amends Section 405 of the Workers’ Disability Compensation Act to include forest fire officers and fire/crash officers under the First Responder Presumed Coverage Fund. Starting on January 1, 2022, forest fire officers and fire/crash officers who develop certain cancers are eligible to claim benefits under the First Responder Presumed Coverage Fund.
The newly signed law will make it much easier for forest fire officers and fire/crash officers to obtain workers’ compensation benefits secondary to work related exposures and reflects the legislators’ intention to provide greater protections to first responders.
If you have any questions about HB 4171 or anything related to workers’ compensation, please contact a member of the Foster Swift workers’ compensation group. We are always here and happy to help.
Alicia Birach is a member of the Employer Services Practice Group and works out of the firm's Southfield office. She has extensive experience representing insurance carriers, third party administrators and employers against workers' compensation claims. Additionally, she is experienced in counseling employers on labor and employment issues.View All Posts by Author ›
Currently, Brian Goodenough chairs the firm's Employer Services Practice Group where he practices municipal law, zoning and land-use disputes and workers' compensation law. Previously, he served as a member of the firm's Executive Committee and as an officer of the firm.View All Posts by Author ›
Mike devotes his practice to the representation of employers, insurance carriers, and third-party administrators in workers' compensation matters throughout the state. He is the author of several published law review articles on workers' compensation topics, and he is a frequent lecturer on this topic.View All Posts by Author ›