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Natural Disasters and First Responder Workers’ Comp

Natural Disasters and First Responder Workers’ Comp
During natural disasters first responders often rush toward the places of greatest hazard. Wildfires, severe weather, floods, and even earthquakes are among the disasters emergency personnel may face here in Nevada. And as we saw during the 2017 firestorms in California, from time to time Nevadans also go to other states to lend assistance to local crews. First responders may have questions about how Nevada’s workers’ compensation system protects them during these events.

Disaster declarations and workers’ compensation

Nevada’s industrial insurance law doesn’t specifically address natural disasters. But Nevada law authorizes the governor to declare a state of emergency in the event of a disaster “of unprecedented size and destructiveness.” Part of the rationale for this law is to ensure that the state can access federal resources to respond to crises. The governor used this authority last year to respond to severe weather in the state. The law also grants the governor broad authority to make and modify rules and regulations to, among other things, ensure the availability of emergency response personnel in times of crisis. NRS 414.060. Similar laws have been used in other states to facilitate provision of workers’ compensation benefits to first responders who are involved in disaster relief efforts. For example, in response to Hurricane Harvey the governor of Texas ordered workers’ compensation insurers to continue providing benefits to workers in affected areas, while also extending deadlines and expanding coverage in important ways. Under the right conditions, the Nevada governor could take similar steps. The Texas example highlights an important consideration during major disasters. In some cases a worker’s ordinary doctor or pharmacy may not be accessible. Workers with existing, covered conditions may need exceptions to their benefits rules, such coverage for out-of-network care or deadline extensions to account for lost power or disrupted communications. Absent a specific declaration from the governor or another authorized government official, workers in this situation may need help getting the care they need.

Workers’ comp has you covered

Even without an emergency declaration from the governor, Nevada’s workers’ compensation system should cover first responders who are injured during natural disasters while they are doing their jobs. Nevada’s industrial insurance system covers injuries that arise out of and in the course of a worker’s employment. NRS 616C.150. Police officers, firefighters, and EMS professionals who respond to natural disasters at the behest of their employers are covered. State law also explicitly provides coverage for volunteer firefighters, both nonprofessionals and professionals alike. Law enforcement personnel are typically authorized to take steps to protect the public even when they are off-duty, but it’s worth checking an employer’s policies to ensure that off-duty activities are covered. Nevada’s workers’ compensation law specifically provides coverage for injuries suffered out of state.  NRS 616C.190. First responders who go out of state to assist local agencies can do so knowing any injury they suffer will be covered. At Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez we are proud of our long history of helping clients in the Las Vegas first-responder community resolve their workers’ compensation disputes. During emergencies insurers can become difficult to work with, due to high volumes or financial pressures. Having an experienced attorney staying on top of a dispute can make all the difference. For a free attorney consultation, call us at 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.

The Legal Side of Firefighters and Cancer in Nevada

The Legal Side of Firefighters and Cancer in Nevada
Firefighters are often exposed to toxic substances during the course of their careers. A fire can release an incredible amount of potentially cancer-causing materials into the air and environment, adding a pervasive and challenging danger to an already dangerous job. Unfortunately, cancer claims many firefighters’ lives. For that reason, Nevada’s workers’ compensation law provides specific protection for firefighters who develop cancer as a consequence of their work.

Nevada defines cancer as an occupational disease of firefighters

NRS 617.453 specifically defines as an occupational disease a cancer that is caused by exposure to toxins during a firefighter’s duties and results in the firefighter’s temporary or permanent disability, or death. The statute provides benefits for firefighters who either have been in full-time service in Nevada or worked as volunteer firefighters (as defined in NRS 616A.145) for five years or more. To qualify for coverage, the firefighter must have been exposed to a known carcinogen in the course of his or her employment, and the carcinogen must be “reasonably associated with the disabling cancer.” The statute provides a nonexclusive list of known carcinogens and their related cancers; if a firefighter’s cancer is not on the list, the firefighter can offer evidence to show that the cancer was caused by a particular carcinogen. A firefighter’s cancer is presumed to be related to the job, however an employer can seek to overcome this presumption by showing that the cancer has another source. The statute also protects recently retired firefighters who develop cancer after leaving the service. A formula determines how much time a retiree will be covered by the law from retirement to diagnosis: 3 months for every year of service up to a maximum of 60 months. For qualified cancers, the statute provides for full reimbursement for expenses related to the firefighter’s medical treatment as well as the standard slate of benefits available for death or disability under Nevada’s industrial insurance law.

GGRM serves our first responder community

Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has proudly served Las Vegas first responders for more than 45 years. If you or a loved one is a firefighter who is battling cancer and you would like to speak to an attorney about how Nevada workers’ compensation law works, our attorneys are here to help. Call us today at 702-388-4476, or send us a request through our contact page.