Florida Statute 112.181 is designed to give a presumption of compensability to first responders who contract communicable diseases. This includes firefighters, paramedics, EMT’s, police and and correctional officers.
This statute differs from the normal workers’ compensation exposure statute in that proof of the source of the exposure is not required, nor is proof of a higher incidence among a particular profession at issue.
More likely than not, most emergency workers had a pre-employment physical as part of the employment process. If a worker had a blood borne disease discovered as part of the physical, the worker will never be covered for that particular problem.
If, during the course of employment, an employee tests positive for hepatitis, TB or any disease which can be transmitted by blood , saliva, or any other body fluid, it will be presumed to have been contracted during the course of employment. The employee however, must complete an affidavit which states he or she hasn’t been exposed to a person outside of work with a known blood disease; had a transfusion of blood or blood components (other than their own); engaged in unsafe sex or used IV drugs.
This statute’s presumption is also rebuttable, just like the heart/lung bill, so let’s look at a few pitfalls common to these cases.
1) If you make a claim, you need to sign an affidavit that mentions all the above factors. Making a false claim can now subject you to penalties for fraud, not only sinking your workers’ compensation case, but making you subject to criminal penalties.
2) Once you make a claim you open up all your prior medical records to scruinity. So if you reported to a doctor or psychiatrist the use of IV drugs, treatment for an STD, children out of wedlock, a prior surgery which required blood or bone grafting, piercings or tatoos, it’s all fodder for the defense, unless you’ve been TESTED.
The simplist way to protect yourself is to get a full blown blood testing and TB screening once a year, and report every incidence of unintended fluid transfer. Every time a victim, suspect or inmate bleeds, bites, spits or throws something on you, file an incident report. Remember HIV, hepatitis and may other blood borne diseases have incubation periods and may not show up for many months.
Having the blood testing done once a year will narrow the window of exposure. These diseases can also be expensive to treat over a lifetime and so they are vigorously defended. Many first responders are young, unmarried and sexually active. You do not want to find yourself being deposed by a lawyer asking the names of your sexual partners for the last ten years. Having a blood test once a year means you may have a shorter list of names to remember, and don’t think you won’t be asked.
Second, try to aviod unprotected sex if you are not in a monogomous relationship. Some of these diseases are deadly, and if you look back in most peoples medical records you can usually find some problem that required penicillin…. That’s a case ender.
So get tested annually, report every occurrence, and avoid unprotected sex.