Volunteer firefighters and emergency medical technicians working for a volunteer fire company (VFC) are covered under the statute for medical and burial expense benefits (IC 36-8-12-10). Search and rescue units may or may not fall under the statutory definition of a volunteer fire company.
A volunteer fire company is properly classified under code 7711—Firefighters & Drivers—Volunteer.
Prior to 2007, a VFC was assigned to the Indiana state special code 7699 "Firefighters - medical only & drivers."
In Indiana, three firefighter codes are available as of 7/1/07 per Item Filing B-1397:
7710—Firefighters & Drivers
7711—Firefighters & Drivers—Volunteer
7699—Firefighters—Medical Only & Drivers
Code 7699 is an Indiana state special and applies to non-volunteer, paid firefighters who are members of Firemen’s Pension Fund. By statute, they are eligible for medical only benefits.
Note: Indiana volunteer firefighters used to also be assigned to 7699 prior to the introduction of new code 7711 for volunteers effective 7/1/07, Filing B-1397. The classification wording for code 7699 was expanded to include volunteer firefighters effective 2/14/96.
The common legal link between 1) paid firefighters who are members of the pension fund, and 2) volunteer firefighters is that both are eligible for medical only benefits. To visually help step through the decision process, we have created a flowchart.
Related Note: For emergency medical technicians (EMTs), use Code 7705—Ambulance Service and EMS (Emergency Medical Service) Providers & Drivers. This code applies to both paid and volunteer personnel.
Statute IC 36-8-12-10
Sec. 10. (a) A:
(1) volunteer firefighter or an emergency medical technician working in a volunteer capacity for a volunteer fire department or ambulance company is covered; and
(2) volunteer working for a hazardous materials response team may be covered; by the medical treatment and burial expense provisions of the worker's compensation law (IC 22-3-2 through IC 22-3-6) and the worker's occupational diseases law (IC 22-3-7).
(b) If compensability of the injury is an issue, the administrative procedures of IC 22-3-2 through IC 22-3-6 and IC 22-3-7 shall be used to determine the issue.
(c) This subsection applies to all units, including counties. All expenses incurred for premiums of the insurance allowed under this section may be paid from the unit's general fund in the same manner as other expenses in the unit are paid.
As added by Acts 1981, P.L.309, SEC.64. Amended by P.L.198-1988, SEC.1; P.L.3-1989, SEC.230; P.L.172-1990, SEC.2; P.L.72-1992, SEC.5; P.L.1-1999, SEC.95.
Of the approximately 800 volunteer fire companies, over 90% consist of minimum premium policies and are in the assigned risk plan. Our study indicates most volunteer fire companies have about 21 volunteers. With the minimum payroll charge of $300 per volunteer and the 1/1/19 minimum premium of $944, a company could have more than 125 volunteers without exceeding the minimum premium.
Volunteer Firefighters Not Rostered Volunteers
Volunteer firefighters are excluded from rostered volunteers as defined by statute (IC 22-3-2-2.1). However, IC 36-8-12-2 requires the volunteer fire company to keep a roster of volunteer firefighters. Volunteer firefighters may receive "nominal compensation" of not more than $20,000 annually.
Sec. 2. As used in this chapter:
"Nominal compensation" means annual compensation of not more than twenty thousand dollars ($20,000).
"Responsible party" has the meaning set forth in IC 13-11-2-191(d).
"Volunteer fire department" means a department or association organized for the purpose of answering fire alarms, extinguishing fires, and providing other emergency services, the majority of members of which receive no compensation or nominal compensation for their services.
"Volunteer firefighter" means a firefighter:
(1) who, as a result of a written application, has been elected or appointed to membership in a volunteer fire department;
(2) who has executed a pledge to faithfully perform, with or without nominal compensation, the work related duties assigned and orders given to the firefighter by the chief of the volunteer fire department or an officer of the volunteer fire department, including orders or duties involving education and training as prescribed by the volunteer fire department or the state; and
(3) whose name has been entered on a roster of volunteer firefighters that is kept by the volunteer fire department and that has been approved by the proper officers of the unit.
As added by Acts 1981, P.L.309, SEC.64. Amended by Acts 1981, P.L.181, SEC.3; P.L.217-1989, SEC.6; P.L.70-1995, SEC.6; P.L.1-1996, SEC.91; P.L.1-1999, SEC.88; P.L.192-1999, SEC.1; P.L.119-2003, SEC.1.
Legal Entity Discussion
Usually, a volunteer fire company is considered a separate entity from any government body such as a township, city, or county. Apparently, a volunteer fire company must contract with a government entity to provide fire services and may contract with multiple government entities.
We process assigned risk applications for volunteer fire companies just as we do for other businesses: the company needs a FEIN or social security number and any combinations of entities for experience rating or one policy are subject to our ownership rules.
Audit Exception for Servicing Carriers
ICRB grants Indiana servicing carriers an exception to performance standards and do not need to perform an audit at least every three years for a VFC policy in the assigned risk plan. Due to the nature of the business (volunteer workers and no office staff), we recognize that it is difficult to make contacts to complete an audit. Also, almost all of these accounts are minimum premium policies where an audit would not affect the premium charge.
Executive Officers of VFCs
Some volunteer fire companies are incorporated. The executive officers are also volunteer firefighters. In such cases, use the officer's actual payroll, subject to the $300 per year minimum (per phraseology under code 7699). Do not use the executive officer minimum as stated in the Basic Manual Rule 2.E.1.b.1., page R16.
The executive officer minimum is designed to reflect that in many corporations the officers elect to forgo salary in an effort to grow the business through appreciation in its value, yet upon injury they are eligible for indemnity benefits. Since executive officers of volunteer fire departments are not motivated to increase the (resale) value of their business, and are ineligible for indemnity benefits, it is reasonable to apply the same payroll rules to the executive officer as those applied to other volunteer firefighters.