Understanding Limitations of the Presumption of Occupational Causation
While no one wants to experience a workplace injury, those who work in some industries undoubtedly have a higher risk of being injured at their workplace in certain ways than the rest of us do. For example, police officers, firefighters, and correctional officers all face an inherent risk of being injured in particular ways due to the nature of these positions. Therefore, while all employees who are injured at work in the scope of employment in the Sunshine State are generally entitled to the benefits of workers’ compensation, Florida law contains an exception to traditional workers’ compensation requirements. This exception is called the presumption of occupational causation.
Under this statute, there is a rebuttable presumption of occupational causation for police officers, firefighters, and correctional officers and other similarly situated workers who meet certain prerequisites for specified conditions such as:
- Heart disease
There are a few other stipulations that typically apply in order to obtain benefits under this presumption. These generally include:
- The injury resulted in total or partial disability or death
- The person attempting benefits under the presumption passed a physical examination upon entering into service which failed to reveal any evidence of the disabling disease
- Barring other negotiations, the presumption does not apply to benefits payable under or granted in a policy of life insurance or disability insurance
Is the Presumption Absolute?
Unfortunately, no. The language of the statute makes it clear that the presumption is a rebuttable one and Florida courts have affirmed that. For example, a Florida appellate court recently overturned a finding of compensation for a correctional officer’s cardiac condition in a case that demonstrates some of the limitations of this presumption.
In City of Jacksonville v. O’Neal, a corrections officer employed by the city filed a claim for workers’ compensation benefits in which he asserted that he began experiencing heart problems as a 29-year-old corrections officer in 2002. He was concurrently training to participate in Olympic-type competitions in track and flag football at the time he began experiencing these heart problems, which resulted in diagnoses of atrial tachycardia and atrial fibrillation. He then underwent a cardiac catheterization in June 2002, as part of which his doctor intentionally induced the arrhythmias that formed the basis for his workers’ compensation claim, which specified the date of the surgery as the date of the workplace accident.
Initially, this was found to be compensable in view of the occupational causation presumption applicable to correctional officers despite the condition being congenital, as it was concluded that his injury could have been triggered by job-related stress. However on appeal, a later denial on cross-appeal was upheld and the case was remanded because the appellate court concluded that there was medical evidence that showed his workouts in 2002 triggered the degeneration of his congenital heart condition into atrial fibrillation, and this evidence hadn’t yet been evaluated as a non-occupational cause that could overcome the presumption.
Turn to Us.
Regardless of your injury, you need and deserve to have qualified, diligent representation from an experienced legal team during this difficult time. As the experienced Miami workers’ compensation attorneys at Payer & Associates, we have the knowledge you can rely on when beginning the process of trying to obtain workers’ compensation benefits. We understand that this can be an overwhelming and challenging time for anyone who has been injured at work and we can relieve some of your stress by helping ensure that you obtain all the benefits you are entitled to while you focus on restoring your health. Contact us today to begin.