I just returned from the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group’s (WILG) Annual Convention. I am extremely proud to announce that one of my law firm’s partners, Mike Gruber, was installed as the president of this esteemed group of men and women whose common bond is representing the interests of injured workers and their families. Mike is the fourth partner from my firm to hold this office, which includes former partner Lew Heller, Senior Partner Edgar Romano, and me. My firm is proud to continue the tradition of national leadership in an organization that fights to protect injured workers.
This year we were updated on a number of interesting topics including one near and dear to my heart – benefits for first responders. My friend and colleague JR Boyd, a past president of WILG and a leader in his home state of Missouri, lectured about the dangers inherent in firematic duties. As the daughter and sister of retired firefighters and sister of a current FDNY Lieutenant, I am always trying to keep updated on the latest issues affecting those I love. I have grown up knowing that at any moment tragedy may strike.
Ironically, on the day of the lecture news broke of the death of New York City Firefighter Chief Michael Fahy. He was on the scene of a reported gas leak and while in the midst of an investigation, an explosion occurred and part of the structure fell on him. Chief Fahy graduated from law school but decided to pursue his dream as a firefighter. He was following in the footsteps of his father Thomas Fahy, himself a retired FDNY Chief.
Chief Fahy is but one of the many men and women who have sacrificed their lives for their City, their state, or their country. Tragedy can strike without warning in the form of a building collapse, an explosion, a flashover, or when a floor or roof is compromised. First Responders may end up burned, electrocuted, or receive blunt force trauma. These are just a few of the ways firefighting can turn deadly. Unfortunately, our firefighters do not just face immediate dangers on the job, but also must contend with lung issues, cancer, and heart conditions. Three hundred forty-three firefighters lost their lives during the attacks of 9/11, but so many more have died from the after effects of being exposed to toxins in the air.
While there are still nine volunteer fire companies in New York City that respond to calls in their neighborhoods and are covered under the New York State Workers’ Compensation System, the vast majority of residents are protected by a paid force of brave men and women who are employed by the City. The Fire Department of New York is the largest municipal fire department in the United States, employing more than 10,000 uniformed firefighters.
When firefighters get injured, they are paid a salary until they are able to return to work. Some firefighters who get injured on the job as a result of the wrong doing of another may be able to file suit against the negligent party. Some firefighters may receive a three-quarter disability pension if they suffer an injury and are unable to work but benefits may differ depending upon the type of injury sustained and years of service. As a result of the heart, stroke and lung bills, there is a presumption that disabling heart, stroke, and lung conditions are the result of employment as a firefighter. I have seen the damage the job has done to the people I care about and the untimely deaths of many whose health has been severely compromised as a result of the rigors of the job. While benefits do exist, one can never truly repay these brave men and women who put their lives on the line every day to protect us.
Catherine M. Stanton is a senior partner in the law firm of Pasternack Tilker Ziegler Walsh Stanton & Romano, LLP. She focuses on the area of Workers’ Compensation, having helped thousands of injured workers navigate a highly complex system and obtain all the benefits to which they were entitled. Ms. Stanton has been honored as a New York Super Lawyer, is the past president of the New York Workers’ Compensation Bar Association, the immediate past president of the Workers’ Injury Law and Advocacy Group, and is an officer in several organizations dedicated to injured workers and their families. She can be reached at 800.692.3717.
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