Case name: Justice v. Kimper Volunteer Fire Department, No. 2012-CA-000417-WC (Ky. Ct. App. 09/14/12).
Ruling: The Kentucky Court of Appeals held that a volunteer firefighter was not entitled to permanent disability benefits because he had no regular employment from which an average weekly wage could be computed.
What it means: In Kentucky, a volunteer firefighter who is otherwise unemployed and has no regular employment is not entitled to income benefits.
Summary: A volunteer firefighter was responding to an emergency rescue call when he was struck by a vehicle. He sustained injuries to his back, neck, and shoulder. At the time of the accident, he was not employed elsewhere and was not earning wages. He had been laid off from his job as a mechanic two months before the accident. He was also not paid for his duties as a volunteer firefighter. He filed a workers' compensation claim. The Kentucky Court of Appeals held that the volunteer firefighter was not entitled to permanent disability benefits.
Volunteer firefighters are deemed to be employees of the department for which they work. In the case of volunteer firefighters, income benefits are based on the average weekly wage of their regular employment. The volunteer firefighter asserted that his AWW should be based on the wages he earned in the previous year of paid employment. The court disagreed, stating that the plain language of the statute led to a conclusion that in the absence of being engaged in "regular employment," he had no AWW from which disability income benefits could be based.
Although other statutes allowed "looking back" at the 52 weeks or 12 months before an accident in computing AWW, the statute regarding volunteer firefighters did not include such a provision. The court said that the legislature would have included such language if it intended to do so.
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November 1, 2012
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