Some states still follow the so-called “firefighter’s rule”, which prevents injured firefighters from seeking compensation from third parties who negligently cause injuries to firefighters while in the line of duty. In 1973, the rule began to erode in Massachusetts when the Supreme Judicial Court declared an injured person’s status on someone’s property no longer determined whether a duty of care was owed to them by the property owner. The Court declared from then on, a landowner owes a duty of reasonable care to protect all lawful visitors from foreseeable harm.
Then in 1974, the legislature abolished the defense of “assumption of the risk” which prevented recovery for injuries by persons who assumed the risk of getting hurt – a key justification for the “firefighter’s rule” was now gone. After that change in the law, the new inquiry would be whether the assumption of the risk by the injured person was unreasonable in the circumstances and if so, it would constitute evidence of comparative negligence but would no longer be a bar to recovery. Finally, in 2000 the Massachusetts Appeals Court was urged by a defendant to follow the “firefighter’s rule” and throw out a lawsuit brought by an injured police officer. The defendant had been sued by a police officer who was injured while responding to a melee involving that defendant. The Court examined Chapter 41 of the Massachusetts General Laws. Ch. 41 grants municipal firefighters and police officers statutory injury on duty wage and medical expense benefits for injuries on duty which occur through no fault of their own. In addition, Ch. 41 permitted injured municipal firefighters and police officers to make claims against the third parties who cause their injuries. After this discussion, the Appeals Court declared “The firefighter’s rule has no continuing vitality in Massachusetts.” Hopkins v. Medeiros, 48 Mass.App.Ct 600 (2000).
Many firefighters still mistakenly believe they have no rights to make claims for much needed compensation against third parties who cause their injuries. At Ballin & Associates, we take great pride in helping spread awareness and understanding to Massachusetts firefighters about their rights to make justifiable claims for badly needed compensation in connection with their injuries on duty. We have attended the PFFM and MCVA’s annual conventions. We were featured in the MCVA’s official publication, Smoke Showin’. And we share case studies on our blog of some recoveries we have made for Firefighters injured on duty:
- $90,000 FOR FIREFIGHTER HIT BY POLICE CRUISER WHILE FIGHTING BIG-RIG FIRE
- INSULATION CONTRACTOR CAUSES HOUSE FIRE & PAYS $1.6 MILLION TO INJURED FIREFIGHTER
- PLAYING WITH FIRE INSIDE MULTI-UNIT BUILDING COSTS FIREBUG $340,000 FOR FIREFIGHTER’S INJURED KNEE
- UNDERAGE DRINKING PARTY COSTS PARENTS $125,000
Remember, when a firefighter is injured, their statutory injured on duty benefits providing for wages and medical expenses, do not provide compensation for the injured firefighter’s pain and suffering, diminished future earning capacity or compensation for lost overtime shifts. Nor do these statutory benefits provide full compensation for income from other employment or self-employment income which these injured firefighters depend on to make a living. It is important injured firefighters consult with an attorney experienced in these cases and with the laws governing these cases to evaluate the prospects of making a successful claim to compensate the injured firefighter for all their harms and losses. In Massachusetts, there is typically a three-year statute of limitations which bars claims from being made more than three years after the injury occurred. Therefore, it is important firefighters who may have claims for incidents which occurred during the past three years quickly consult with an experienced attorney.
Ballin & Associates, LLC specializes in representing injured firefighters and police officers and their families. For over 34 years, Ballin & Associates’ attorneys have practiced in the field of personal injury law and successfully represented injured public safety officers in over 200 departments throughout Massachusetts. Cases are handled on a contingent fee basis meaning no legal fee is due unless and until money is successfully collected on the case. Consultations are free and confidential. If you were injured in your capacity as a public safety officer or for more information, please call 508-543-3700 or visit www.ballinlaw.com.