Are you a firefighter who's been injured in the line of duty? You may have several concerns:
- Do volunteer firefighters qualify for Workers' Comp?
- Could I be eligible for other forms of compensation?
- Should I speak with an attorney?
The experienced work injury lawyers at Monheit Law are prepared to help you through this process.
Our work injury lawyers take pride in securing the compensation brave firefighters deserve after being injured.
Each day, firefighters risk their own lives to save others. These courageous men and women regularly enter burning buildings, respond to catastrophic car accidents, and rescue endangered civilians in all types of emergency situations.
Of course, such a dangerous profession is rife with hazardous working conditions. Even if they don't suffer the consequences immediately, many firefighters acquire serious health complications after years of service.
When a work-related injury or illness prevents an emergency responder from fulfilling their job duties, Workers' Compensation provides financial assistance for medical expenses and lost wages.
The Function of Workers' Compensation
In Pennsylvania, virtually every worker is protected by Workers' Compensation insurance. With very few exceptions, employers are required to purchase an insurance policy for each employee. This requirement is designed as a safeguard for both groups. Workers are guaranteed compensation for on the job injuries, and their supervisors are protected from facing liability in a personal injury lawsuit.
However, many injured workers encounter unexpected roadblocks during the claims process. In order to win a claim, you must provide thorough documentation for your injuries. The PA Workers' Comp Board is strict, and even slight errors in your application could result in a denied claim.
Additionally, Workers' Comp insurance companies function just like any other insurance company: their goal is to pay as little as possible. The lawyers on their payroll are there to find reasons to limit or deny your claim. Having an experienced work injury attorney on your side is often the best way to avoid complications.
FREE WORK INJURY CONSULTATION
How Can A Lawyer Help?
Experienced work injury lawyers know the ins and outs of the Workers' Comp system. They know what is required in order to file a successful claim and which common mistakes to avoid. Insurance companies rely on workers becoming confused by this complex process so that they don't have to pay them what they deserve.
Your lawyer will help you to properly document your injury and make sure that everything is submitted in a timely manner. If you've already had a claim denied, he or she can help guide you through a complicated appeals process.
Finally, the right attorney will analyze the specific details of your case to determine if you are eligible for any additional compensation, such as disability benefits or a personal injury claim.
For example, if a defective piece of machinery caused your injury, a product liability lawsuit may be possible. Or if a drunk driver collided with your fire engine, you could sue that driver for both economic and noneconomic injury-related expenses. If your injuries are permanently disabling, you may be eligible for Social Security Disability Insurance.
Are Volunteers Covered?
Yes. Under PA Law, all volunteer emergency personnel are provided with Workers' Compensation Insurance from the sponsoring municipality. Additionally, volunteers qualify for Social Security Disability benefits, even if they are unemployed or retired.
Common Firefighter Injuries
While in the line of duty, firefighters are constantly at risk of acquiring a career or life-threatening injury or illness. Injuries which frequently result in Workers' Comp claims include:
Obviously, firefighters are at an extreme risk of suffering catastrophic burns on the job. In severe fires with large numbers of innocent civilians inside, protective gear can only go so far. Even the strongest gear has time-sensitive and temperature-sensitive limits.
Strains, Sprains, & Muscle Pain
According to a report by the National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), in 2015 strains, sprains, and muscle pain accounted for 53% of fireground operation injuries. Overexertion contributed to over 27% of these injuries.
Firefighters are required to consistently exert a great deal of muscle power in the line of duty. These injuries may happen suddenly or result from an accumulation of stress over a period of several years.
Firefighters regularly work from high elevations, often with unstable surfaces beneath them. Falls from buildings and ladders frequently result in bone fractures and sprains. According to the same NFPA report, falls, jumps, and slips contributed to about 27% of firefighter injuries in 2015.
The same NFPA report found 8,350 documented exposures to infectious diseases in 2015. Exposure is a risk when completing emergency services, as contact with contaminated bodily fluids could transmit diseases such as hepatitis, meningitis, and HIV.
A research study by the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (NIOSH) determined that an astounding 68% of firefighters develop cancer, compared to just 22% of the general population. Rates of malignant mesothelioma were especially high, which is likely due to frequent asbestos exposure.
In 2011, former PA Governor Tom Corbett signed a law which guaranteed Workers' Comp benefits to firefighters who contracted cancer due to their hazardous working conditions. In order to qualify for a claim under this law, you must satisfy three requirements:
- Served at least 4 years in continuous firefighting duties
- Prove direct exposure to a Group 1 carcinogen (asbestos, benzene, coal, emissions from fumes)
- Successfully passed a physical examination before becoming a firefighter
If you've engaged in other activities which increase the risk of cancer, such as smoking tobacco, you may run into difficulties while filing a claim.
We understand the pain and devastation that comes with a cancer diagnosis. Our attorneys are here to stand by your side and earn the compensation your family needs while you focus on spending time with your loved ones.