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Are volunteer first responders eligible for workers’ compensation?

On Behalf of | Jan 4, 2021 | Firm News |

States such as Pennsylvania and many others often ask the public if they would like to donate their time to serve within various first responder departments. Many will heed that call and volunteer to serve during both normal time and times of great devastation, all for no payment at all. Unfortunately, there are cases in which those volunteers end up with injuries from their service. So it begs the question, do they receive workers’ compensation like paid employees?

State employee definition

Pennsylvania does recognize these volunteers’ needs for some sort of compensation. Thus, state law defines them as employees. Volunteers who fall under this definition include people volunteering as:

  • Firefighters
  • Ambulance corps or rescue team members
  • State parks and forests program volunteers

Loss of earning power

An individual who spontaneously injects himself or herself into an emergency situation constitutes a volunteer who is not eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, but an individual who responds to a request for emergency assistance on behalf of an employer constitutes an employee who is eligible for workers’ compensation benefits. Volunteer first responders can receive loss of earning power compensation and coverage for medical treatment because they are defined as employees.  It is important to note that volunteer firefighters who are permanently scarred or disfigured may be also able to file for disfigurement benefits.

Unfortunately, some claims of loss of earning power may take longer than you would like them to. In rarer cases, you may also face challenges against your injuries or loss of wages. With volunteers, the law is particularly complicated.  Thus, it is important to obtain the services of an attorney skilled in workers’ compensation as soon as possible.