A few weeks ago, officials of the State Firemen’s Association, which includes many volunteer fire companies, revealed they were facing a serious problem. It was the decision by BrickStreet Insurance to stop writing ‘‘broadform’’ liability coverage for volunteer fire department officers and boards.
Such coverage protects fire department officials in the event they face liability lawsuits filed by firefighters. Clearly, no fire company official in his right mind would continue serving without it.
Then, through the efforts of Gov. Joe Manchin, a temporary solution was devised. The state Board of Risk and Insurance Management agreed to provide fire department officials with broadform insurance coverage until next June.
There was another development recently. The Firemen’s Association announced a private company, Volunteer Firemen’s Insurance Services, had agreed to provide broadform insurance policies. That’s good — but at what cost to volunteer fire departments?
BrickStreet officials decided to stop offering the policies after determining they were costing the company money. For every $1 in broadform premiums collected, BrickStreet was paying out $7 in claims.
That means VFIS may have to charge more — perhaps much more — to break even on the deal. That will be another burden on many cash-strapped volunteer fire departments.
One reason for the high rate of broadform insurance claims appears to be state law on the liability of fire department officers. Firemen’s Association officials want legislators to consider changing the statute.
Of course, Manchin and legislators should consider such an amendment — providing it does not eliminate protection individual firefighters have in liability situations.