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Attention Firefighters: Expanded Benefits in Illinois

Last month the Illinois Legislature amended the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act to expand benefits for firefighters in Illinois by including MRSA infections as being presumed to be caused by workplace exposure. HB 3662 amends 820 ILCS 305/6(f) and awaits Governor Pritzker’s final signature. There is little doubt it will be signed into law.

Under this new revision, firefighters, EMTs or paramedics that contract “contagious staph infection including Methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA)” are presumed to have contracted the infection due to the hazards or exposures of the employment. 

When the law states there is a rebuttable presumption that one’s condition or illness is causally related to their workplace, it makes it easier to prove the person has a work related injury. Given the revision, a firefighter need:

  1. prove he/she is employed as a firefighter in Illinois (or employed out of state but working in the state of Illinois) and 

  2. prove he/she has contracted MRSA 

If the worker proves these two elements, then it is presumed to be work-related. 

The burden then shifts to the employer to attempt to prove the employee contracted MRSA outside the workplace. For example, they would need to produce evidence that the person had direct exposure to MRSA in their personal life or that the employee was never in a workplace environment that could possibly have had MRSA present. This is a tough hurdle the employer must clear to fight the case. It is important that you get an attorney who can properly advise you of all the benefits which you may be entitled to and that knows how to navigate the legal procedures to get the best possible outcome for you!

If you or someone you know is a firefighter, EMT or paramedic and was diagnosed with MRSA or any other bloodborne pathogen, lung or respiratory disease or condition, heart or vascular disease or condition, hypertension, tuberculosis, or cancer resulting in disability, you may be entitled to benefits under the Illinois Workers’ Compensation Act. You should talk to a trusted and experienced attorney to discuss your options. Contact Black & Jones Attorneys at Law for a free consultation today!