Volunteer firefighters regularly find themselves in dangerous situations. They are often put at risk of severe injury, illness, and even death while responding to calls. When a first responder reports to an emergency in their community, and then becomes injured or sick as a result, the last things they should have to worry about are medical expenses and lost income from missing work during their recovery. If you need help securing compensation for your injury or illness, we are here to help.
Can Volunteer Firefighters Receive New York Workers’ Comp Benefits?
Yes. In New York State, the Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefits Law provides for cash benefits and/or medical care to volunteer firefighters who are injured or become ill in the line of duty. Cash benefits and medical care are paid for by the insurance carrier of the local political subdivision for which the volunteer firefighter’s department is operating. The local political subdivision can not require the volunteer firefighter to contribute to the cost of coverage. The right to benefits is lost only if the injury/illness resulted solely from the volunteer firefighters’ intoxication from alcohol or drugs, or from intent to injure themselves or others.
In order to secure benefits, you should notify at least one of the following within 90 days of when the injury or illness occurred:
-Clerk of the board of supervisors of the county
-Town or village clerk
-Secretary of the fire district or company
-Comptroller or chief financial officer of the city
Be sure to keep track of who you notified or your condition, and when. Dated, written notifications are especially advisable.
Additionally, a Workers’ Compensation claim must be filed with the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board within two years of when the injury or illness occurred. The deadlines and paperwork associated with injury/illness notifications and Workers’ Compensation claims can be complicated and difficult to keep track of, and on top of that, your claim could be controverted (denied) by the insurance company. The Board may schedule a hearing to review your claim. In most cases, there are a number of obstacles standing between injured/sick volunteer firefighters and the NY Workers’ Compensation benefits that they are entitled to.
The exact protocols of who to contact after your injury/illness, what paperwork to file, what rights you have in a Workers’ Comp hearing, how to keep track of deadlines, how to structure your Workers’ Compensation claim, how to gather medical evidence, and how to respond to the insurance company’s denials can combine to make your situation feel complex and intimidating.
That’s where MCV Law comes in.
How a Volunteer Firefighters’ NY Workers’ Compensation Lawyer Can Help:
We can clarify the entire Workers’ Comp process, protect your rights, and help you build a case. Our Workers’ Compensation attorneys have years of experience successfully representing injured and sick volunteer firefighters. We will listen to your story, and build a strategy that is carefully customized for the specific details of your injury/illness, the context of how you sustained it in the line of duty, and how the condition has impacted your life (including your medical expenses, lost wages, etc.). We have the knowledge, skills, and resources that can help you make a case, and we are here to help you maximize the medical care and cash benefits you need to achieve the best recovery possible.
At MCV Law, we work on a contingency basis. You pay us nothing until we successfully get your claim approved and help you secure the full amount of benefits you are entitled to. At that point, your fee to us will simply be a small percentage of the total amount of compensation awarded to you by the New York Workers’ Compensation Board. While you are not required by law to have an attorney represent you in a Workers’ Compensation case, generally injured and sick volunteer firefighters who choose to have legal representation enjoy a higher success rate in having their claims approved.
How Much Money Can Volunteer Firefighters Receive in New York Workers’ Comp Benefits?
For any volunteer firefighter who becomes injured or ill in the line of duty in New York State, the total amount of Workers’ Compensation benefits that they can receive will ultimately depend on the severity of their injury or illness. All medical care for your compensable injury or illness will be paid for by your political subdivision’s insurance carrier. On top of any medical care expenses, benefits will be a fixed amount for an injury/illness resulting in death, total disability, or schedule loss of use (loss of earning power from a permanent functional impairment of a body part). Weekly benefits for other injuries or illnesses, such as those that only cause temporary partial disability, are determined based on wage-earning capacity.
The extent of your disability can be outlined by an official opinion from your medical provider, while your wage-earning capacity can be calculated by the NY Workers’ Compensation Board based on your age, education, training, and experience.
Here is the direct correlation between disability classification and Workers’ Comp cash benefits awarded, as detailed by the New York Workers’ Compensation Board:
- Permanent Total Disability: Your wage-earning capacity is permanently and totally lost.
- The weekly cash benefits for all volunteer firefighters with a permanent total disability, regardless of the date of accident, is $600.
- Temporary Total Disability: Your wage-earning capacity is totally lost but only on a temporary basis.
- The weekly cash benefit for volunteer firefighters with a temporary total disability, who were injured or became ill on or after July 1, 1992, is $400.
- The weekly cash benefit for volunteer firefighters with a temporary total disability, who were injured or became ill on or after July 1, 2021, is $650.
- Note: Weekly cash benefits at the rate of $650 began on July 1, 2022.
- Temporary Partial Disability: Your wage-earning capacity is partially lost, but only on a temporary basis.
- Permanent Partial Disability: Part of your wage-earning capacity has been permanently lost.
- The weekly cash benefits for all volunteer firefighters found to have a temporary or permanent partial disability, who are injured or became ill on or after July 1, 1992 are set forth in the table below.
Temporary or Permanent Partial Disability Chart:
Volunteer Firefighters - Death Claims and New York Workers’ Compensation
When a volunteer firefighter dies from an injury or illness sustained in the line of duty in New York State, their family members are entitled to compensation. While nothing can replace a lost loved one, these workers' comp provisions can help families manage financial burdens.
Death Claims: Surviving Spouse and Dependent Children Cash Benefits Chart:
For a detailed analysis of your level of eligibility for NY Workers’ Compensation benefits, as well as a personalized strategy on how to build and support your claim, connect with our office today to arrange a free consultation with one of our skilled Workers’ Compensation attorneys.
How to Tell if Your Injury Was Sustained “in the Line of Duty”
The New York State Workers’ Compensation Board considers most activities performed by volunteer firefighters, pursuant to orders/authorization, to be “in the line of duty”, including participation at fires, hazardous material incidents, and other emergency situations. Authorized drills, parades, PT classes, meetings, travel to and from calls, as well as training and testing activities are also considered to be in the line of duty. Injuries/illnesses sustained during these times are compensable under New York State law.
The only activities listed by the Board that are NOT considered in the line of duty, and thus not compensable for volunteer firefighters, are:
- Participation, including practice, in any recreational or social activity, other than noncompetitive fundraising activities
- Work rendered in the service of a private employer; public corporation or special district
- Work rendered while on leave of absence or suspended from duty, or work that the volunteer has been ordered not to perform
- Competitive events in which volunteer members are competitors, such as baseball, basketball, football, bowling, tugs of war, boxing, wrestling, contests between bands or drum corps, or other competitive events in which volunteer members are competitors and which involve physical exertion on the part of the competitors
NY Workers’ Comp Attorneys - Why Volunteer Firefighters Choose MCV Law
For the injured and sick volunteer firefighters of New York State, the skilled attorneys at MCV Law offer valuable resources, legal insight, experience, and a full understanding of New York Workers’ Compensation Law. Whether you are starting from scratch right after an injury or dealing with a controverted claim, we can guide you through the process. We will deal with the paperwork and insurance carrier, so you can focus on recovering. We can handle it all, from gathering medical evidence, filing your claim, and representing you in hearings to confronting the insurance carrier, helping you get medical care, and running the calculations to ensure that you receive every dollar you are entitled to once your claim is approved.
Depending on the context of the injury or illness, we are also fully equipped to help you secure monetary benefits beyond just Workers’ Compensation. For instance, if you were injured due to the negligence of a third party, such as a reckless driver who broke traffic laws, you may be entitled to a Personal Injury settlement in addition to Workers’ Comp benefits. If your condition is severe enough to prevent you from working in the future, you may also be entitled to Social Security Disability benefits. If the circumstances of your condition make you eligible, we can handle any (or even all three) of these cases on your behalf. Our team will coordinate to ensure that you receive the maximum amount of compensation possible by law for your injury or illness.
At MCV Law, we recognize and appreciate the valuable contributions that volunteer firefighters bring to local communities. When one of them gets injured or sick in the line of duty, helping them navigate the law and guiding them on their path to compensation is an honor that we are proud to perform. We’re here to listen to your story. We’re here to let you know your legal options. We’re here to help you get your life back.