From varying degrees of burns to toxic fume/carbon monoxide exposure, explosions, and even falls from tall buildings, the ways firefighters encounter injuries or death are almost endless. Therefore, there’s no milder way to state it, a fire fighter’s job is dangerous. In fact, in 2018 and 2019, according to the National Fire Protection Association, around 58,000 and 60,900 firefighters sustained different types of injuries while putting their lives on the line, respectively.
If you are a firefighter, you may already know that all states in the US, including California, guarantee workers’ compensation coverage for any firefighter who sustains an injury on the job. Still, it’s not uncommon for employers or insurance providers to play “games” when it’s time to settle firefighters or their families for compensation claims.
Trust us, this is not something you want to handle alone. There are San Francisco injury lawyers trained to get the best outcome for you. You don’t have to wait till the situation gets messy. If you’d like to know more, read on.
Who Is Classed As a Compensated Firefighter?
Despite being in life-threatening situations, some firefighters are compensated, while others are not. The condition is simple. A compensated firefighter is classed so if the terms of engagement involve being compensated for the hourly services rendered, whether it’s an 8 am-5 pm arrangement or otherwise. On the other hand, an uncompensated firefighter, also called a volunteer, need not be paid for services rendered.
Some volunteer firefighters can respond to duties only when they are available. Others must respond during certain periods, and could even be disciplined for not doing so or for responding late. It doesn’t matter their modus operandi, as long as they are volunteering, they are not classed as compensated firefighters.
Nevertheless, it is not unheard of that volunteer or uncompensated firefighters receive some compensation. They even get compensation due to work-related injuries and even pension. However, paid compensations must not be linked, in any way, to the firefighter’s performance. Meaning it should not be wages tied to the number of hours put in.
This is because, under the Fair Labor Standards Act, any person that is hourly paid must be paid the national minimum wage and also be entitled to overtime if the hours go higher than the maximum working threshold.
Therefore, because it is not uncommon for many fire-fighting departments to engage volunteer firefighters for stipends that may be less than the minimum wage, it could be seen as illegal if the firefighters are engaged hourly. Why? The Fair Labor Standard Act doesn’t see hourly-paid workers as volunteers but as employees.
Job-Related Medical Conditions for Firefighters
Apart from the fire-related injuries firefighters sustain on the job, some medical conditions are automatically tagged as work-related for firefighters. What’s more, California compensation law doesn’t allow employers to hide under the condition that an employee may have developed a condition before joining the fire fighting service. The medical conditions are:
- Hepatitis B
- Hepatitis C
- HIV (and other blood-borne/infectious diseases)
- Heart Diseases.
Furthermore, the usual workers’ compensation benefits only cover an injury or condition if it is established to be work-related. For fore fighters, exposure to harmful chemical/biological substances, including all the above including medical conditions is assumed to be work-related whenever firefighters develop them.
Worker’s Compensation Benefits for Firefighters
Firefighters are entitled to worker’s compensation benefits like every other employee in California. The usual benefits include permanent disability benefits, medical benefits, supplemental job displacement benefits, and temporary disability benefits.
However, there’s more for firefighters. There exists additional compensation under California labor law, known as 4850 benefits. This benefit is backed by section 4850 of the California labor law, stating that an injured firefighter that is temporarily or permanently unable to return to work will receive one year’s pay at the full rate.
There’s a clause. The 4850 benefit is not applicable for firefighters whose job isn’t actively fighting or preventing fire. If a firefighter is unable to return to work after a year, temporary disability workers’ compensation benefits will apply and will not receive both the temporary disability and 4850 benefits.
Additional Benefits for Firefighters’ Families
Death can occur while a firefighter is on duty. If this happens, the family (spouse or children) is permitted under the California compensation benefit scheme to continually receive health insurance or lump-sum money. Children can receive benefits till age 21 or even scholarships.
Let Us Assist You With Your Claim
The truth is, work-related injuries can happen at any time. If it does, you need all the help you can find so you can focus on your healing. What’s more, it’s best not to handle your claims alone as we have experienced San Francisco injury lawyers that will help get the best result for your case.