The Firefighter’s Rule (sometimes known as the fireman’s rule or the professional rescuer’s rule) is a common-law rule or statutory restriction that bars firefighters and often many other first responders from bringing a lawsuit for damages against those who may be responsible for starting a fire or initiating activities requiring first responder action.
The Firefighter’s Rule is based on the assumption of risk. Firefighters and other first responders are deemed to have assumed certain risks inherent in their professions, including the possibility that they could be injured or killed, and, in the case of firefighters, that they could suffer severe burns.
The Firefighter’s Rule is not applicable in all jurisdictions. In the state of Illinois, an injured firefighter may be able to sue the owner of the premises where the fire occurred if a firefighter, policeman, or other first responder is injured by a defective condition of the premises other than the fire itself. As a result, when a firefighter is injured, an initial determination should be made as to whether the firefighter may be able to initiate litigation against those responsible for the fire.
Seeking Compensation for Defective Equipment
While the Firefighter’s Rule may prevent firefighters and other first responders from initiating litigation in many jurisdictions, such rule does not necessarily preclude them from bringing suit against those who have developed or sold defective equipment. In many jurisdictions, if the cause of the firefighter’s injury or death was the result of a defective product that could have caused injury even in the absence of an emergency, the firefighter may be able to recover damages. Thus when tools and equipment used by firefighters fail to perform as intended, the Firefighter’s Rule may not bar potential recovery against the manufacturer or seller of the defective product.
In a recent Missouri case, for example, a firefighter died of smoke inhalation after his breathing system failed to function properly. The appellate court upheld the judgment and award at trial, and held the Firefighter’s Rule does not preclude a firefighter from bringing suit against the manufacturer of the defective equipment.
If you were injured as a firefighter due to defective equipment or a property defect contact our firm and we can discuss the specific facts and circumstances of your case.