New York’s worker’s compensation system covers most workers, giving them much-needed benefits after they are injured on the job.
Certain types of jobs have similar systems. For instance, volunteer fire departments, which are common in smaller towns, provide benefits for injured firefighters through the Volunteer Firefighters Benefit Law. These benefits are typically overseen by local workers’ compensation offices.
Recently, a Washington County workers’ compensation board denied a claim brought by the family of a volunteer firefighter who died after suffering a torn aorta while in the line of duty.
According to news reports, the 20-year veteran of the Whitehall Volunteer Fire Company sustained the heart injury last year while responding to a fire. He suffered a series of strokes while undergoing surgery to repair the damage to his aorta and died four months later. In that time, he racked up more than $1 million in medical expenses.
The firefighter is survived by his sister, who took care of him after his injury. However, the county workers’ compensation administration denied the family’s claim for benefits.
Firefighters were outraged by the decision. Some have said that by denying the claim, the county is actually discouraging people from volunteering as firefighters.
The family is reportedly considering an appeal to the decision.
There are special legal considerations involved in a case involving a volunteer firefighter, but in its broad outlines the Washington County case resembles many disputes in workers’ compensation.
Employers and their insurers often refuse claims or fail to give the claimant the full amount of benefits they deserve. When this happens, it is essential that injured workers and their families get help from an experienced workers’ compensation attorney who can represent them at hearings and appeals.
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