Pennsauken, NJ (Law Firm Newswire) August 21, 2018 – An issue before the New Jersey Supreme Court is whether a volunteer firefighter who suffered an injury during her response to a fire should receive an award of workers’ compensation benefits. According to the New Jersey Law Journal, the firefighter, Jennifer Kocanowski, is attempting to reverse an appeals court decision that determined that because she was unemployed at the time of the incident, and she had no other job that compensated her, she did not have a right to benefits.
Appellate Division Judge Karen Suter wrote that Ms. Kocanowski’s claim is in conflict with the reason for the award of temporary disability, which is to supersede lost earnings. In the absence of lost earnings, the payment of temporary disability is deemed a windfall.
According to court documents, the accident took place on March 6, 2015. At that time, Ms. Kocanowski had been volunteering with a fire engine company for 14 years. She was trained as a home health aide, but had left her job to care for her elderly father.
South Jersey workers’ compensation attorneys, not involved with the case, Petrillo & Goldberg say, “Workers’ compensation benefits are intended to replace lost earnings in the event of injury while at work.” “An injury that occurs while on a job for which a worker is not paid, is generally not compensable.”
At the time of her response to the fire, she suffered a slip and fall, and severed her right leg. During the following year, she had surgeries to repair the injury to her leg, foot and left knee. She did not return to her employment as a home health aide.
In her application for workers’ compensation, she contended that she had a right to benefits because she suffered an injury at work. However, the township raised an objection, stating she was not eligible for benefits because she did not sustain a loss in wages. The state Division of Workers’ Compensation Benefits concurred with the position of the township, and denied her request for benefits. She filed an appeal. The Supreme Court granted her petition for certification.
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