Posts Tagged ‘Employees and insurance’

After Injury, Volunteer Firefighter is Out of Luck

Thursday, July 7th, 2011

employee screening, employee background checkA volunteer firefighter in Vermont was recently denied a workers’ compensation claim for an injury he suffered while at the station. He wasn’t in the line of duty at the time, according to the insurance company, because he was fixing insulation—not fighting fires.

While on a ladder performing the repairs, Jason Stech fell, fracturing his ankle, breaking his foot and shattering his heel. His injuries require surgery and will keep him from working at his paying job for four months. Although he submitted a workers’ compensation claim, it was denied by the insurance company, based on Vermont’s definition of “line of duty,” which is limited to when a firefighter is responding to a fire, drill or test, participating in a parade or fundraising.

In Vermont, where more than 90% of fire departments are volunteer, the decision could send a negative message and hurt volunteer recruitment efforts, some say. Stech says he’ll keep serving his community, but will be more cautious about what he’s willing to do. In the meantime, he’s hiring an attorney and appealing the decision.

Does it make sense that a volunteer firefighter would likely be covered for breaking an ankle while walking in a parade, but not while fixing insulation? Stech assumed he’d be covered for any injuries suffered while doing anything related to the fire department, which seems reasonable enough. Perhaps this firefighter’s willingness to take on the fight will result in a change in the law that will benefit all volunteer firefighters, who deserve more consistent coverage.