New York’s volunteer firefighters respond to all manner of emergencies within the communities they serve. In light of the widespread media attention and mounting public concern surrounding Covid-19, FASNY wants to remind volunteer firefighters of the protections available to them under the law.
It is the opinion of General Counsel for FASNY that exposure and illness caused by a line-of-duty exposure to Covid-19 is a compensable injury under the Volunteer Firefighters’ Benefit Law (“VFBL”). This conclusion is supported by the definition of “injury” contained in the VFBL, as well as the case of Matter of Rigali v Town of Colonie, Verdoy Fire Dist., 47 AD2d 507 (3d Dept 1975), and a published opinion of the Office of the New York State Comptroller.
While the determination of a covered injury is left to the VFBL insurance carrier (or self-insured entity) in the first instance and, ultimately, the Workers Compensation Board and the Courts, we are confident that any line-of-duty exposure to Covid-19 would trigger VFBL coverage for an afflicted volunteer firefighter. We note that many VFBL insurers in the State have encouraged their insureds to file claims for Covid-19 in the event that exposure or illness occurs. A firefighter who believes that he or she contracted Covid-19 while in the line of duty should inform their authority having jurisdiction and VFBL carrier accordingly.