The California Fire Service March-April 2023

answered “If he knew it was job related, he would have filed” and “He didn’t even know he had heart trouble until 2021” and, finally, we asserted “You have the burden to prove when he knew his conditions were job related. He cannot speak now due to his stroke. You cannot prove his knowledge.” They never did prove when he knew the industrial nature of his conditions. Defendants shifted their attack to “His heart trouble was discovered more than five years after he retired which is beyond the statutory five-year extension of the “heart presumption”. Also, “he was not working in 2021 so his compensation is at the minimum rate, which means he cannot receive more than $150 per week.” We showed that his heart condition was certainly “developing” long before it was discovered in 2021, which activates the heart presumption and which also gives Joe “maximum earnings” by statute. There are several lessons to be learned. Valid workers’ compensation claims may arise long after you stop working. You may not want to assert old date of injury simply because you had symptoms or even time lost years ago. But even if you file on an ancient claim, you may also have a perfectly valid cumulative (wear-andtear) claim. Firefighters suffer any number of cumulative or occupational injuries-heart, cancer, back, knee, any joint, almost any internal condition, emotional illness including PTSD. Cumulative/occupational claims often are discovered after retirement and can be valid if properly presented. Beware of time limits. Help your colleagues or their family. When you learn of a retired firefighter who dies or is disabled due to some condition that might be job related, recommend that they consult counsel. Often spouses are less likely to “tough it out”. If a firefighter friend had not mentioned comp to Joe’s wife, they never would have pursued their rights. Claims adjusters are not your friend. Many adjusters are honest, but their job is to properly adjust your claim, follow the internal procedure of their employer (insurance company or adjusting agency) and ultimately save money for taxpayers. Some adjusters seem to delight in denying benefits. Serious conditions deserve serious representation. CSFA recommends THE CALIFORNIA FIRE SERVICE MAGAZINE • MARCH/APRIL 2023 • 11 serious attorneys to represent you in workers’ compensation and disability retirement matters. About the author: For more than 50 years Richard Elder has represented firefighters and other safety officers in workers’ compensation and disability retirement matters. He is among the few such lawyers recommended by CSFA. He may be reached at 925-676-7991. Inland Empire (951) 276-1199 San Diego & Inland Empire