Firefighters and Workers’ Compensation in Massachusetts

Firefighters and Workers’ Compensation in Massachusetts

In Massachusetts, workers’ compensation is available to most employees. In many cases, workers’ compensation is the legally required course of action if a worker is injured. However, the law applied differently to certain workers who are not considered within the legal definition of “employees.” Firefighters can be hard to classify because they work for local municipalities. Many firefighters are not even paid, but work as volunteers. Their job is also very high-risk, and firefighters can be very seriously hurt on the job.

Even though firefighters work under very unique circumstances, they may still recover compensation if they are injured on the job. However, workers’ compensation looks a bit different for firefighters because they are usually employed by a government entity. Firefighters may be entitled to leave without any loss of pay if they are injured on the job. Also, their compensation may come from the government itself rather than a private insurance provider.

If you are a firefighter and you were injured on the job, you may be entitled to certain types of compensation while you recover. Speak with our Massachusetts workers’ compensation attorneys to determine what kind of compensation you are eligible for and how to get it. To schedule a free and confidential legal consultation, call the Law Office of John J. Sheehan at (617) 925-6407.

What Happens When a Firefighter is Injured While Working in Massachusetts?

As the Commonwealth of Massachusetts points out, when you are injured at work, you will receive medical benefits whether you miss work or not. The insurance company of the worker’s employer must pay all related costs to the injuries of their workers. Those types of costs will include matters such as hospitalization, surgery, doctor’s fees, prescription drugs, medical rehabilitation, and other required medical services. The employer must continue to pay for these benefits for as long as treatment is necessary for the recuperation of injuries. If the work-related injury causes the worker to miss more than five working days, the employee is entitled to cash benefits for lost wages. It is not necessary that the worker miss five consecutive days; once the worker has missed five days, the employee can file for lost income.

Firefighters do not get regular workers’ compensation. Instead, they may be compensated under Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 41, § 111F. However, compensation tends to work a little differently for firefighters because they are usually employed by state or local governments. In general, firefighters who are injured on the job can leave work to recover without missing any payments. However, unlike ordinary workers’ compensation, the firefighter’s injury must be due to no fault of their own.

Additionally, firefighters are often paid directly by their government employer rather than a private insurance carrier. This is because many government entities are self-insured. Firefighters can receive their compensation on a tax-free basis. There is no fixed limit on how long a firefighter may receive benefits, but they typically end once the employee retires, is pensioned, or is deemed by a physician able to return to work. Our Boston workers’ compensation lawyers can help you claim your benefits.

What Happens When a Firefighter Dies on the Job?

If a worker perishes in a work-related accident, then there are different benefits that would apply under workers’ compensation. The salary benefits would accrue not to the deceased but rather to family members such as a spouse or children. The family is able to receive up to $4,000 from the employer’s insurance company for burial expenses. Additionally, the spouse would receive a weekly payment equal to 2/3 of the worker’s average weekly income. However, if the spouse were to marry another person, the spouse would no longer be entitled to the workers’ compensation salary benefits. If the spouse remarries, though had children with the deceased, the children would still be able to obtain economic benefits. They would obtain $60 per week until they reach the age of majority.

The families of fallen firefighters may take a different route. Under Mass. Gen. Laws Ch. 32, § 89E, the family of a fallen firefighter may collect accidental death benefits. There are three forms of accidental death benefits that the spouse and family of a firefighter may be eligible for.

First, the firefighter’s family may receive an annuity equal to at least two-thirds but no more than 100% of the annual compensation payable to a firefighter in their first year of service. This annuity may be adjusted depending on the cost of living for the year the benefit is paid.

Second, the firefighter’s family could be eligible for a one-time accidental death benefit payment of $500,000. This money comes from an insurance policy established by the firefighter’s employing town or district.

Third, the family of a fallen firefighter could be eligible to receive the same annuity payment mentioned above of at least 2/3 but not more than 100% of the annual compensation of a first-year firefighter. However, under the third option, the annuity payment is paid by an insurance policy established by the employing town or district rather than directly from the municipality.

What Happens When a Fallen Firefighter Has No Surviving Spouse?

Accidental death benefits for firefighters can also be claimed when there is no surviving spouse. For example, a firefighter who was a single parent may have their children receive the benefit. Also, should the surviving spouse pass away after the firefighter, but before any children turn 18, the children will receive the benefit payments.

In the event that a firefighter is unfortunately killed on the job and has no surviving spouse, payments may be made to the firefighter’s minor children. These children will continue to receive payments until they turn 18. However, adult children who are physically or mentally incapable of working may continue receiving benefits indefinitely. Speak to our Wakefiled workers’ compensation attorneys to discuss accidental death benefits for a fallen firefighter’s family.

An Injured Firefighter’s Ability to Sue Third Parties in Massachusetts

Even though the employer compensates firefighters for any injuries they sustain on the job, firefighters are not barred from suing third parties who may have caused the injuries. If a firefighter successfully sues a third party for their injuries, the compensation from the lawsuit will be applied to the town or district paying the firefighter’s benefits.

For example, if a firefighter was injured on the job, they may receive compensation directly from their employer, the local town, district, or other municipality. If that firefighter also successfully sues a third party who directly caused the accident which led to the firefighter’s injuries, they may be compensated for damages from the lawsuit. Those damages would first be paid to the firefighter’s employer to the extent that they cover expenses paid for the firefighter’s benefits. Any extra would then be paid to the firefighter.

Suing third parties as an injured firefighter is a bit more complicated because the firefighter may not be entitled to all the damages they win at trial. Any damages they win must first be paid back to their employer to cover costs of benefits paid by the employer. The firefighter keeps anything left over. To discuss the possibility of suing a third party, contact our Boston personal injury lawyers.

Call Our Massachusetts Workers’ Compensation Attorneys About Compensation for Firefighters

If you are a firefighter who was injured on the job or the family of a fallen firefighter, contact the Law Office of John J. Sheehan. We can help you file a claim for benefits and advocate aggressively on your behalf to work to get you the payments you deserve. To set up a meeting with our Somerville workers’ compensation lawyers, call (617) 925-6407.

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