Workers’ compensation is an area of the law that aims to protect workers by allowing them to be compensated for injuries sustained at work. The federal government offers its own workers’ compensation insurance, but each state has its own workers’ compensation insurance program.
Workers’ compensation attorneys have been following the controversy over a new law in Pennsylvania allowing volunteer firefighters to collect workers’ compensation if they contract cancer from exposure to cancer-causing chemicals during firefighting. Municipal governments, which are under budget pressures, anticipate the law to contribute further to already-volatile system of workers’ compensation benefits.
Some insurers have already canceled coverage of workers’ compensation for volunteer firefighters in certain cities, and others have raised premiums and shortened filing windows to cut costs. As a result, those cities will have to purchase private insurance at a much higher cost. They struggle to find sufficient resources to support the demanding needs of their fire protection funds, some of which used to be allocated to workers’ compensation. Penn Township reports it may have no choice but to sign up for coverage through the State Workers’ Insurance Fund, which is much more expensive.
The types of injuries and situations covered by workers’ compensation are broad, including situations that stem from employee or employer negligence. Workers’ compensation insurance can cover medical costs, replace lost wages, provide benefits to family members, pay for retraining and more. It applies not only to incidental occurrences but also to long-term injuries, in which case the worker may be compensated for any continued need for medical attention or continued loss of wages.
The recent struggles over volunteer firefighters insurance coverage are evidence of the importance of all workers being aware of their rights and options. Workers who have been injured on the job should be able to collect the benefits they deserve.
Source: Firehouse.com, “Some Insurers Drop Worker’s Comp for Pa. Volunteers,” Chris Foreman, Sept. 6, 2012