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Workers Compensation For Volunteer Firefighters and EMTs

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New York Workers Compensation Attorney for Firefighters and EMTs

Volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians put themselves in harm’s way every day to protect the lives of others, and do so without pay. New York workers’ compensation law requires coverage for these public servants, a fact that many are unaware of. Turley Redmond & Rosasco has been helping firefighters and EMTs for more than a quarter century. A workers compensation attorney can guide you through the system to recover the compensation you deserve. Call the workers comp lawyers at our firm today at 1-800-671-4927

Volunteer vs. Uniformed Firefighters and Ambulance Workers

Workers’ compensation benefits are available for volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers in New York if they are active volunteer members of a fire company of a county, city, town, village, fire district, or ambulance company and are injured in the line of duty. A “volunteer” firefighter or EMT is one who volunteers his or her time and does not receive monetary compensation. While volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers are eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits, New York City uniformed firefighters are not. Instead, they are covered instead by General Municipal Law § 205-A, also known as the “Fireman’s Law,” which allows New York City firefighters to sue their employers or co-workers for work-related injuries, provided that the injury was caused by neglect, omission, or negligence or by failing to comply with a statute, rule, or regulation. New York City firefighters may also sue third parties for injuries sustained in the line of duty. 

Common Injuries Sustained by Firefighters and EMTs

Firefighters and EMTs put themselves in harm’s way to help others, but doing so comes at great personal risk. Some common injuries sustained by firefighters and EMTs include: 

  • Burns: The most obvious type of injury firefighters and EMTs face is burns, simply due to the nature of their work. 
  • Musculoskeletal injuries: The duties of firefighters and EMTs can be incredibly physically demanding and are often required to be performed in inhospitable environments. Such activities can lead to strains, sprains, and broken bones. 
  • Transportation accidents: Car crashes are one of the leading causes of death in the United States even under normal driving conditions. Ambulance drivers face an increased risk of suffering injuries in a crash for several reasons, including high rates of speed and weaving in and out of traffic. 
  • Exposure to chemicals and toxins: Depending upon the situation, firefighters and EMTs often face exposure to dangerous chemicals and toxins, such as when responding to a fire at an industrial plant. 
  • Assault and battery: Firefighters and EMTs are usually the first people to arrive on a scene and often have to deal with unstable, potentially dangerous individuals who may be prone to attack. 

A volunteer firefighter or EMT who suffers any one of these types of injuries in the line of duty  likely is eligible to receive workers’ compensation benefits. 

New York Volunteer Firefighters Injured in the Line of Duty

All volunteer firefighters and most volunteer ambulance workers are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits for injuries incurred in the line of duty. Spouses and dependents of volunteers who died in the line of duty or because of an illness or injuries suffered in performing those duties are also entitled to benefits.

Firefighters and ambulance workers who volunteered in the rescue, recovery or cleanup efforts after the World Trade Center attack between 9/11/2001 to 9/12/2002 are entitled to compensation for their injuries and lost wages.  In addition to Ground Zero, volunteer participants at Fresh Kills Landfill and the barges, piers and morgues that handled debris and bodies are also covered.

What Activities are Within the Line of Duty for Workers Comp Claims??

“Line of duty” encompasses a wide range of vital services that help keep our communities safe. In addition to the innately dangerous duties required of a firefighter or EMT, line of duty includes such peripheral duties as traveling to and from an emergency, training for the job, equipment maintenance and fundraising activities. Consult with a workers compensation attorney if you are unsure whether your injury occurred in the line of duty.

Outside of Work Exception for EMTs

Generally, injuries that occur while off-duty are not covered by workers’ compensation. However, NY law makes an exception for emergency medical technicians who voluntarily, and without expecting any payment, render medical care at the scene of an accident. Even though the EMT is off the clock, the law considers the rendering of aid to arise out of the course of employment and, therefore, injuries that happen while doing so are covered by workers’ compensation insurance.

Blood Exposure of EMTs and Firefighters

Any public safety workers, including EMTs and firefighters, who are exposed to blood or other bodily fluids while performing their duties are entitled to coverage under the workers’ compensation program. The public safety worker is covered for diagnosis, care, treatment, medications and determination as to whether the blood was contaminated and whether the public servant was infected with a communicable disease. The term “public safety worker” includes volunteers, such as volunteer firefighters, who officially act in a public safety capacity.

Stress of the Job

Firefighters and emergency medical technicians work under extraordinarily stressful conditions. The workers’ compensation code specifically disallows claims for mental conditions that may arise under the typical stress of these jobs. However, this section should not dissuade an emergency worker who has sustained mental injuries due to unusually stressful events. For example, rescue and recovery workers involved in the 9/11 terrorist attack may have sustained a mental injury due to the extraordinary work-related stress of this unimaginable tragedy.

Benefits Available for Injured Volunteer Firefighters and EMTs in Manhattan and Long Island

Firefighters and EMTs are eligible to receive similar benefits as other workers, plus a few additional benefits. These include: 

  • Cash benefits: Depending upon the severity of the injured firefighter or EMTs injury, he or she can receive can be up to $600 per week for permanent total disability and $400 per week for permanent or temporary partial disability. 
  • Death benefits: Firefighters and EMTs who die in the line of duty are entitled to death benefits depending upon whether their surviving spouse is remarried and whether they have dependent children. The surviving spouse is also entitled to a $56,000 lump sum benefit plus funeral expenses up to $6,700. 
  • Medical care: All medical care for injured firefighters and EMTs is paid for by their political subdivision’s insurer, so long as the provider is authorized by the workers’ compensation board. 
  • Rehabilitation and social services: Rehabilitation services are available to help eliminate the lingering effects of the disability, if possible, including vocational rehabilitation, selective placement, medical rehabilitation, and social services. 

Schedule a Free Consultation with a Workers Compensation Attorney at Turley Redmond & Rosasco

Did you know you are covered by workers’ compensation as a volunteer emergency worker? Learn more about the benefits you are entitled to receive from the workers comp lawyers at Turley Redmond & Rosasco. Your case evaluation is free, so contact us today to schedule a consultation. We have offices in Nassau and Suffolk County. 

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