Being a peace officer is difficult work. In addition to the risk of serious injury or death in the line of duty, there are several chronic conditions that can develop after being on the job for some time. Peace officers are more likely to suffer from numerous health conditions, including stress-related diseases such as heart disease, depression and suicide.
Peace officers are also often exposed to known and suspected carcinogens during the course of duty.
A 2012 study published in the American Journal of Industrial Medicine concluded that "police work is associated with exposure to a variety of carcinogenic agents, lifestyles, or risk factors." It found that Hodgkin's lymphoma, melanoma, bladder and testicular cancer are more common among police officers. A full text of that article is available here.
Cancer can be presumed to be a job-related medical condition
Fortunately, under California law, there are certain medical conditions which are presumed to be caused by job-related activity. One of these conditions is cancer. This is important in workers' compensation claims, as injuries sustained on the job are covered under workers' compensation insurance. If the condition is not job-related, workers' compensation does not cover it.
Under state law, if a peace officer can demonstrate he or she was exposed to a carcinogen while on duty, then it is presumed that exposure caused the cancer. Peace officers include many professions within the law enforcement community.
No case is certain
While it is certainly beneficial that the law presumes cancer in peace officers is the result of on-the-job activity, peace officers should not assume their workers' compensation insurancewill cover the costs associated with a cancer diagnosis.
Insurance companies can still contest presumptive claims. For example, the insurance company can claim that a peace officer's cancer was solely caused by exposure to a carcinogen outside the workplace. Cancer also develops slowly, so insurance companies could argue that a peace officer has not worked long enough to have been exposed to carcinogens on the job.
This blog is not legal or medical advice. If you have questions about workers' compensation and presumption claims under California law, contact an experienced California workers' compensation attorney.