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Volunteer firefighter workers’ compensation claim difficult case

Putting one’s life at risk for others is often labeled as heroic. Salaried and volunteer firefighters risk their lives for others on a routine basis. If they are injured or become sick as a result of their service, they are entitled to file for workers’ compensation insurance benefits to help alleviate medical and other related expenses. Unfortunately, the insurance claims process in Pennsylvania is not an easy one to navigate, especially for volunteer firefighters, as one widow has experienced over the last several years.

After serving from 1968 to 2010 as a volunteer firefighter, chief and captain of his county’s fire department, the widow’s husband died of stage 4 lung cancer in 2011. She believes evidence exists that his exposure over the years to smoke and diesel fumes was a contributing factor in his illness and death. An insurance claim was filed to help cover related expenses with his illness.

A workers’ compensation judge agreed with her claim and ruled that she be given a monetary award. The case was further reviewed by the Workers Compensation Appeals Board, and they denied benefits to the widow based on documentation errors. A judge has recently requested the board to reconsider their decision and factor in the testimony of other volunteer firemen to compensate for the documentation they require. The case is still up for review.

Despite the fact that workers’ compensation insurance benefits were established to benefit an injured or sick worker, it can be a very difficult system to navigate and file claims. Employment law attorneys in Pennsylvania are able to help guide injured employees and surviving family members to file claims and assist during the process. In cases like widow’s, they are also able to give counsel on how to handle denied claims.

Source:, “Volunteer fire chief’s widow gets Pa. court’s OK to keep fighting for benefits over his cancer death“, Matt Miller, March 8, 2017

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