Missing time from work can be costly. If you miss time due to an injury that occurs while performing your role as a volunteer firefighter or rescue squad worker, you will receive the maximum weekly benefit rate available to injured workers in New Jersey. The workers’ compensation statute provides these benefits to all volunteer fire, first aid or rescue squad workers. Public employers aren’t always so willing to provide these benefits to their volunteers.    

Normally, out of work benefits are based on your average weekly wage. So if you are injured at work and earn $700, your temporary disability rate would normally be $490 per week. In 2012, if you are injured while in the performance of your volunteer duties, you will receive $810.00 per week.

You might think a municipality, county or state agency would protect its volunteers, unfortunately this is not always the case. The simple reason is Money. Public employers are increasingly attempting to cut costs, and weekly benefits are an easy target. Our firm has successfully represented clients in which the municipality claims the volunteer was not in the line of duty when injured and not entitled to the full rate. Municipal employers have also been known to just base the weekly rate on a volunteer’s earnings from his or her actual job. This often results in a significantly reduced weekly rate.   

If you’ve been injured while serving in a volunteer capacity, you need to know your rights. State statue calls for volunteers “doing public fire duty” and “doing public first aid or rescue duty” to receive the maximum benefits available under the law. Public employers need to cut costs wherever they can, and injured volunteers are often an easy target. The activities covered are not limited to injuries suffered responding to a fire, accident or emergency. Construction work on a firehouse, repair work on vehicles and apparatus, participation in search and rescue task force, exhibitions, fund raising and parades are some of the examples in which Volunteers are entitled to this benefit.   

The statute also covers volunteers performing work related to bioterrorism, volunteers working for the Department of agriculture and emergency management volunteers and many other public volunteers.   

Volunteers perform high risk work, which means the injuries can be severe. The worse the injury, the higher the likelihood you will need to miss time from work. At Stark & Stark, our job is to make sure you receive the maximum benefits you are entitled to.

James Creegan is a Shareholder in Stark & Stark’s Lawrenceville, New Jersey office concentrating his practice in Workers’ Compensation law. For questions, or to schedule a free consultaiton with Mr. Creegan, please contact him at: jcreegan@stark-stark.com.