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Are New York’s volunteer first responders covered by workers’ comp?

| Mar 18, 2021 | Workers' Compensation |

New York State’s volunteer firefighters and ambulance workers provide an invaluable service to their communities. When they get hurt, they are entitled to a form of workers’ compensation — as long as they can show that their injury or illness was suffered “in the line of duty.”

‘In the line of duty’ examples

Both groups of volunteer first responders are entitled to cash benefits and/or medical care under two similar laws called the Volunteer Firefighter Benefits Law and the Volunteer Ambulance Worker Benefits Law. An “in the line of duty” injury covers a broad range of situations, including:

  • Performance of duties at the fire or ambulance facility or elsewhere that is directly related to the prevention of accidents or other disasters, or the delivery of emergency services
  • Participation in or attendance of authorized drills, parades, inspections, funerals or reviews
  • Participation in a contest, tournament or public exhibition to demonstrate promote the efficacy of the department or unit, or practice related to such an event
  • Providing or receiving instruction in duties, as well as attendance at a training course or program

These are just a few examples of contexts in which an injury to a volunteer firefighter or EMT could be compensable. Examples of situations that are not in the line of duty, and thus where a volunteer would not be eligible for workers’ compensation, include:

  • Recreational or social activities other than noncompetitive fundraising activities
  • Work rendered in the service of a private employer, public corporation and special district
  • Work rendered while the volunteer is suspended from duty or on a leave of absence
  • Work rendered that the volunteer was ordered not to perform
  • Competitive events like sports or music contests

Just because you do not get paid for your work as a first responder does not mean you must pay your own medical bills after a work-related injury. Contact a workers’ compensation attorney for more information.

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