Legally Speaking

Legally Speaking

Catherine M. Stanton

Catherine M. Stanton

Hello friends!  Today’s editorial is going to discuss Volunteer Firefighters and Ambulance Workers and their rights under New York State Workers’ Compensation Law.

While paid New York City firefighters are covered by special contract, and not covered under New York State Workers’ Compensation Law, all New York State active volunteer firefighters in a county, city, town, village or fire district are entitled to benefits under the law if they are injured in the line of duty.  Most New York State active volunteer ambulance workers are entitled to benefits as well.

To be entitled to benefits, a firefighter must be engaged in activities pursuant to orders or authorization that include, but are not limited to, participation in fire drills, parades and funerals; travel to and from fire calls or authorized activities; firehouse duties; property inspections; and maintenance and repair of equipment.

Volunteer ambulance workers must be engaged in duties at the ambulance facility or elsewhere, including but not limited to, public exhibitions and drills; attendance at training school; travel to and from calls directly related to the prevention of accidents or other disasters; delivery of emergency health care; instruction in ambulance duties; or maintaining equipment.  The benefits depend on the seriousness of the injury and the length of disability.

 A determination of the benefits will be made based upon medical evidence and whether the injury caused a loss of earning capacity from the volunteer’s regular occupation.  The loss of earning capacity is the capability of a volunteer member to perform the work normally done in regular employment at the time of injury.  A person’s actual earnings don’t necessarily determine the amount of the award.

Payments can continue for permanent disabilities as long as there is a reduction in earning capacity of at least 25%.  The maximum rate of weekly compensation for loss of earning capacity is $400 per week.   In the worst case scenario, if a volunteer member dies from a compensable injury, the surviving spouse and/or minor children are entitled to continue receiving weekly cash benefits.  Death benefits are currently $800 a week.

Additionally, volunteer members are entitled to receive necessary medical care for the treatment and recovery from their disability, which is paid by the county, city, town, village or Workers’ Compensation insurance carrier. Injured volunteers should never pay for medical treatment out of pocket; however, all providers must be Workers’ Compensation approved to treat such cases under the Workers’ Compensation law.

If volunteers injure an eye, ear, or extremity, they may be entitled to additional monetary awards even if they haven’t lost a single day from work.  Additional awards may be obtained for loss of vision, loss of hearing, or facial disfigurement.

While it is certain that those who volunteer their time and service do it strictly for the love of their community, we are equally certain that they should be compensated for any injuries they may suffer as a result of their altruistic activities.  For those of you who serve our community in this capacity, we offer our unconditional gratitude.

This series is sponsored by Catherine M. Stanton and the law firm Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano LLP. The office can be reached at 1-800-692-3717. The Queens office location is 118-21 Queens Blvd. Suite 302, Forest Hills, NY 11375.  


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