Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.

Volunteer Firefighters, Workers' Compensation and Private Insurers

Under a new state law, volunteer firefighters exposed to carcinogens - such as asbestos - at the scene of the fire can collect benefits after they develop cancer.

However, because of the law, two insurers for municipalities have said they will no longer provide workers' compensation for volunteer firefighters. This has forced some municipalities to obtain coverage under the State Workers' Insurance Fund, which nearly doubles the cost of private insurance.

While municipalities struggle because of private insurers' decisions, the law does one very positive thing: It protects volunteer firefighters and, according to the executive director of the Pennsylvania State Association of Township Supervisors, it "levels the playing field" for firefighters in Pennsylvania.

Were you diagnosed with cancer for your firefighter duties?

If you have been diagnosed with cancer and you believe it was caused by exposure to asbestos or another on-the-job carcinogen, you are entitled to compensation. Workers' compensation is available if you have been a volunteer firefighter for four years and you have not been out of the service for more than 11.5 years.

Workers' compensation, however, protects the municipalities from personal injury claims. Therefore, you may not be able to bring both a personal injury claim and a workers' compensation claim against the municipality. You may bring a claim against a third party, such as the manufacturer of the material that caused your injury.

Even if you are unsure what caused your cancer, it is wise to speak with an experienced personal injury lawyer. An attorney can help you determine who is liable for your exposure to carcinogens and hold the liable parties responsible.

Source: Tribune-Review, "Some Insurers Drop Workers' Comp for Pa. Volunteers," Chris Foreman, Sept. 6, 2012.

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Caroselli, Beachler & Coleman, L.L.C.
20 Stanwix Street, Seventh Floor
Pittsburgh, PA 15222

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