Judge Says Firefighter Wrongfully Denied Workers Comp Disability
After receiving a serious personal injury while trying to save two people from a house fire, a firefighter in New Jersey has finally been granted his workers comp disability pension, although the benefits were originally denied because his work-related injury was not an “accident.”
James Moran, a resident of New Jersey, was dispatched in early January 2010 to a house that appeared to be deserted, but was on fire. Before the truck company could arrive, however, Moran heard screaming inside the house, and used his body to knock down the door to rescue the two occupants. In doing so, Moran injured his back. Normally, firefighters use an ax or a battering ram to enter the home, but because the house was reportedly deserted, Moran did not have that equipment on his person.
Moran’s fire captain testified to the Board of Trustees of the Police and Firemen’s Retirement System that Moran could not grab the ax from his vehicle because he was “grabbing the hose line at the time, which [was what] he was supposed to be doing.” Consequently, Moran injured his “shoulder, leg and back.” This left him disabled, and he applied for an accidental disability pension because he had to retire early.
At the time, however, Moran’s accidental disability pension claim was denied because his actions were “unexpected and undesigned.” The board awarded him an ordinary disability pension, which meant he received $38,000 per year, instead of the $63,000 per year that he would have been eligible for otherwise.
Moran appealed the decision and finally, on November 25th this year, an appellate court reversed the decision.
“While this was not a classic ‘accident,’ in the sense that the house did not collapse on Moran, nor did he trip while carrying a fire hose, it was clearly an unexpected and undersigned traumatic event that resulted in Moran suffering a disabling injury while performing his job,” Presiding Judge Susan Reisner wrote for a three-person panel.
“The board presented no evidence to contradict Moran’s proofs that he encountered an unexpected life-and-death emergency for which he was carrying no tools,” the panel wrote. “The board did not present testimony from any other firefighter that, faced with the same situation, he or she would have gone back to the truck and looked for an ax, leaving the fire victims to their fate in the meantime.”
Workers’ Compensation Vs. Disability Benefits
A work-related injury or illness may be severe enough (and last long enough) that it also qualifies as a disability under the Social Security Disability Benefits Act.
Obtaining Social Security disability benefits is a prolonged process that initially results in a denial, which in turn leads to hiring a lawyer — for a majority of cases. The assistance of a social security attorney can help ensure that you present the documentation needed to support your claim for benefits. You can learn more about the steps to take for denied disability benefits.
Workers’ Compensation benefits would take precedence, and serve as the primary benefit over disability benefits. So if you win Social Security benefits, the benefits will be offset (reduced) based on the amount of Workers’ Compensation you are awarded.
The Strom Law Firm Understands Worker’s Comp Legislation
The workers’ comp lawyers at The Strom Law Firm, LLC proudly seek justice on behalf of employees injured or killed on the job who work for private companies, as well as employees working for local county, city, and state government. We are licensed to practice throughout South Carolina, as well as Georgia and New York. If you are confused about worker’s comp laws, or have had your worker’s comp claim denied, contact us. We offer free consultations to discuss the facts of your case. 803.252.4800.