Occupational Illnesses: When to File a Claim

By Jason Weinstock on January 11, 2011

The Nevada Supreme Court just published a decision favorable to Nevada employees who have illnesses that are caused from their employment.  In City of Las Vegas v. Lawson,  a City of Las Vegas fire fighter filed a workers’ compensation claim after her breast cancer recurred, several years after she was initially diagnosed and treated for cancer. The city denied the claim as being untimely,  because it wasn’t filed when Lawson was first treated and off work due to breast cancer.  The court found that the claim was timely, stating that an employee must first have knowledge of her disability and its relationship to her employment before being required to give notice and file a claim. In Lawson’s case, her doctor did not know or tell her until after her recurrence of cancer, that her exposure to known carcinogens when fighting fires was related to breast cancer. 

Nevada law requires an employee to provide written notice of an occupational disease within  7 days after the employee has knowledge of the disability and its relationship to the employee’s employment.   In addition, the employee must file a claim for compensation ( the C-4 Claim for Compensation form),  within 90 days after the employee has knowledge of the disability and its relationship to his or her employment.  NRS 617.342(1), and NRS 617.344(1).  In Lawson’s case, the appeals officer believed her when she testified that she did not know of the relationship between her breast cancer and her work as a fire fighter when she was first diagnosed and first off work. 

Please note that the laws pertaining to occupational diseases, including cancer, lung disease, and heart disease are  different,  depending on whether the employee is a fire fighter or police officer, or employed in some other occupation.  Nevada employees in other occupations can rarely  establish a  Nevada workers’ compensation claim for cancer. While this case discusses laws applicable only to fire fighters, it has useful application  to all Nevada employees regarding the time limits  for  filing a written notice of injury or /illness and when to  fiile a claim.