It’s no secret that the discovery of fire has helped mankind not only survive but thrive throughout the centuries. Fire has been used to heat homes, preserve food by smoking, protect a community as a weapon, and is used across all industries to create new products. But as everyone knows, fire can be incredibly dangerous if uncontrolled.
It doesn’t matter if it’s a small home or a large business, all it takes is a single spark landing in the wrong spot for flames to suddenly erupt. In a matter of minutes, everything that a person holds dear can be completely destroyed. But possessions can be replaced and buildings rebuilt. It’s the damage done to those trapped inside that is often the most horrific.
This is why firefighters exist. These brave men and women not only put fires out, but they also put their own lives on the line when they enter burning buildings to save those inside. Despite their heroic actions and the known dangers associated with the job, the average salary for this position is typically only $44,000 a year and if the firefighter is injured, financial distress is quite common.
Serious Injuries Can Halt A Career
Even those who are in the best physical condition can be hurt on the job. Common injuries sustained by firefighters include:
The most obvious injury when fighting fire is a burn. Depending on how severe the burn is, victims may be hospitalized for months while they undergo surgery, skin grafts, and deal with secondary infections.
When someone is trapped inside of a burning building breathes in the smoke, the particles and chemicals that are inhaled, as well as the fact that all available oxygen will be used up by the fire, leads them to pass out and eventually die from asphyxiation.
If the victim is lucky enough to be pulled from the fire before they suffocate, the smoke that has been inhaled can still cause serious damage to the lungs.
Muscle strains from lifting heavy objects and people are frequent and the damage done to a torn muscle can result in long term physical therapy and surgery.
Blunt Force Trauma Injuries
Not only do firefighters have to get through a maze of fire, they typically have to do it while dodging falling beams and objects from above. It they don’t move quickly enough, they may be hit, sustaining blunt force trauma or crush injuries.
When a fire starts, witnesses frequently report loud bangs that can be mistaken for gunshots. This is because the pressure and heat causes the windows of the building to blow out, spraying glass shards everywhere. Broken glass, hot metal, and any number of other sharp objects in the building can cause a deep laceration.
Sometimes a firefighter steps in just the wrong spot, where the floor has become weak due to the flames. If they fall through the floor or if the ceiling above them collapses, broken bones are a likely injury.
Depending on what is inside of the burning building, it is quite possible that any firefighter may be exposed to a toxin that could seriously damage both external and internal parts of the body. Not only does chemical exposure cause injury but it can also cause exposure related illnesses, such as cancer.
Whatever the injury or illness, the cost of care can be ridiculously high, which is why most firefighters feel financial strain.
Obtaining Financial Compensation
While most New York workers have the right to file a workers’ compensation claim in order to obtain coverage for their injuries, depending on who the firefighter’s employer is will determine if coverage is provided. Uniformed New York City Firefighters are not covered by Workers’ Compensation. Volunteer Firefighters are covered by the Volunteer Firefighters Law which is similar but not the same as workers’ comp, and some firefighters are covered by workers’ compensation.
While this means it’s not very easy for uniformed firefighters to get the compensation they need, it does give them an option that other workers do not have: they can file a lawsuit against their employer. In fact, according to General Municipal Law 205-a, in New York, an injured firefighter can sue anyone who caused their injury by violating a statute, rule, or regulation.
A lawsuit can provide the plaintiff with complete compensation for their medical bills, lost earnings, physical pain and suffering, and emotional trauma.
Let Us Help You
At Markhoff & Mittman, we have been helping New York’s bravest recover after being injured on the job. We are dedicated to using our experience, in-depth knowledge of the law, and passion to make sure you get what you need. We have dedicated our careers to injured workers and pride ourselves on our commitment to our clients. Don’t hesitate to call today to learn more about how we can help you.