Can Firefighters Sue for Injuries When Responding to an Incident?
Firefighters put themselves at risk every day – both fighting fires and responding to medical emergencies.
For example, say that a maintenance worker at a manufacturing company is working on repairing the hatch opening to an underground vault. The worker slips and falls into the vault, which stores chemical equipment. A co-worker nearby notices and calls 911.
Firefighters, who are also emergency medical technicians, rush to the scene. One of the firefighters, seeing the worker is seriously injured, jumps into the vault. She doesn’t see a glass bottle of acid that another maintenance worker carelessly left on the floor, in violation of safety regulations. The firefighter’s foot lands on the glass bottle, and she suffers severe damage to her ankle and foot.
She suffers much from the injury. It prevents her from walking her dog and easily performing everyday tasks like driving or cleaning the house. The question is, can the firefighter sue the manufacturing company for personal injury?
Firefighter’s Rule in Nevada
The answer is maybe. A traditional legal principle that governs this scenario is called the firefighter’s rule. Basically, it states that a firefighter responding to an emergency can’t sue the caller if injured when responding to the caller’s situation. The rationale is that firefighters are doing what they are paid to do – responding to dangerous and risky situations. They shouldn’t be able to sue if they end up getting injured when doing so. But there are exceptions.
In Nevada, the firefighter’s rule is codified in the Nevada Revised Statutes section 41.139. It states in relevant part:
“A firefighter may bring … an action for damages for personal injury caused … by another person’s lack of ordinary care … if the conduct causing the injury … violated a regulation.”
In this case, one of the manufacturing company employees carelessly left a glass bottle of acid on the floor. This may be a violation of Nevada OSHA regulations. So perhaps the firefighter can sue, as she may meet the requirements for an exception to the state’s firefighter rule statute.
However, the analysis doesn’t stop there. The Nevada Supreme Court appears to have taken a dim view of exceptions to the firefighter’s rule. It stated that Nevada Revised Statute 41.139(1) :
“was intended to narrow the firefighter’s rule to permit recovery in instances where recovery was previously precluded…. Although not explicitly stated in NRS 41.139(1), the legislative history of the statute clearly indicates the Legislature only intended the statute to apply where the injury was caused by the event giving rise to the public servant’s presence.” (Emphasis added). Moody v. Manny’s Auto Repair, 110 Nev. 320, 325-26 (Nev. 1994).
The statement that the codified firefighter rule only applies where “the injury was caused by the event giving rise” to the firefighter’s presence seems to narrow the exception in the statute, which allows liability if there was a violation of law or regulation – in this case, safety.
Call Us Today
The law of the firefighter’s rule and its exceptions, codified and then seemingly modified by the Nevada Supreme Court, has become complicated. If you’re a firefighter and get injured responding to a fire or medical emergency, call us today.
Our Las Vegas personal injury attorneys know the ins-and-outs of the law and stand by to help you with your claim.