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The Recent Case Addressing the Presumption of Occupational Causation


While no worker wants to deal with any form of a workplace accident, an unfortunate reality is that when one occurs, some injuries are much easier to demonstrate a workplace connection for than others. Because it is difficult to obtain workers’ compensation for certain kinds of workplace injuries, a statute has been enacted that affords a presumption of occupational causation for certain injuries for people who work in certain professions.

What is the Presumption of Occupational Causation?

Almost all employees who are injured on-the-job  in the state of Florida are entitled to the benefits of workers’ compensation. Additionally, Florida law contains an exception to traditional workers’ compensation requirements – the presumption of occupational causation. Generally speaking, under this statute, there is a rebuttable presumption of occupational causation for identified conditions for police officers, firefighters, and correctional officers who meet certain prerequisites for conditions such as tuberculosis, heart disease, and hypertension.

When Does the Presumption Apply?

In order to fall under the presumption, the condition being asserted must manifest in a severity level that results in either a total or partial disability or death. Further, in order to recover, the person attempting benefits under the presumption must have passed a physical examination upon entering into service which failed to reveal any evidence of the disabling disease.

While this statute should theoretically make it easier for injured workers to recover the compensation they deserve, obtaining these benefits can be more challenging than it should be when battling an employer and its insurance carrier who often try to fight workers’ compensation claims in order to reduce their own costs. This was illustrated in a recent case before the First District Court of Appeal.

What Recent Case Addressed an Example of the Presumption of Occupational Causation?

In McDonald v. Jacksonville, the injured worker appealed an order of the Judge of Compensation Claims (JCC) denying benefits for his coronary artery disease (CAD) pursuant to the presumption of occupational causation. The injured worker, a law enforcement officer with the Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office, experienced what he thought was indigestion during a shift in late 2016. The following day, he went to a hospital after his pain worsened where he was eventually determined to have CAD which ultimately led to plaque rupture, and the subsequent myocardial infarction he presented with at that visit.

Ultimately, the court sided with the worker because it determined that the JCC put the burden of proof  on the wrong party. The employer and its insurance company had in fact conceded that the worker had satisfied all the statutory prerequisites for entitlement to the presumption that his CAD was work-related. Thus, the burden was on that party, not the worker, to put forth evidence that the heart disease had wholly nonoccupational causes. This was a question the JCC had erroneously not resolved before denying the worker’s claim.

Do You Believe Your Workplace Injury Falls Under the Presumption of Occupational Causation?

In this difficult time, you need qualified, diligent representation from an experienced legal team that can answer your questions relating to your workplace injury and help you pursue your rights in ensuring that you maximize your claim. As the experienced Miami workers’ compensation attorneys at Payer & Associates, we understand the challenges offered by difficult cases involving serious injuries and complex issues and can help you ensure that you obtain all the benefits you are entitled to while you focus on restoring your health. Reach out to us today to begin.


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