Earlier this month, an appellate court in California issued a written opinion in a car accident case that was brought by a woman who was run over by a truck as she was on location fighting a wildfire. The court ultimately determined that since the woman’s injuries were caused in the course of her employment as a firefighter, she was not able to pursue a case against the driver of the vehicle that ran her over.
The plaintiff was a firefighter who was called out to assist in fighting a particularly serious wildfire. The team of firefighters had set up a base camp in the middle of a race track, where there were restrooms and showers. Most of the firefighters camped a short distance from the racetrack. However, by the time the plaintiff arrived at the camp, all of the sites were taken, and she had to search for another place to sleep.
The plaintiff sought permission from her supervisor to set up camp in the middle of the race track, near where base camp was set up. She was granted permission and set up camp. However, on the second night staying there, a truck that was driven by a government contractor ran over the plaintiff as she was sleeping. She sustained serious injuries and filed a personal injury lawsuit against the truck’s driver and several other government entities.
The Court’s Analysis
The court ultimately dismissed the plaintiff’s claim, finding that she had assumed the risk of any potential injury by accepting a job as a firefighter. Specifically, the court applied an old common-law doctrine that had been adopted into the law by state statute, called the “firefighter’s rule.”
The firefighter’s rule prevents firefighters (as well as police officers in some jurisdictions) from filing personal injury lawsuits against parties they claim were negligent in causing them harm if the firefighter’s injury occurred while they were acting within the course of their employment. The justification for the rule is that anyone who accepts a job as a firefighter knowingly accepts the risks of the job.
In this case, the plaintiff tried to convince the court that her injuries were not related to her being a firefighter, since the accident occurred in the middle of the night while she was sleeping. However, the court broadly interpreted the statutory language, finding that her injury “result[ed] from the condition of fire protection or firefighting equipment or facilities.”
Have You Been Injured in an Indiana Accident?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured by another party’s negligence, you may be entitled to monetary compensation through an Indiana personal injury lawsuit. Indiana courts do apply a version of the firefighter’s rule to prevent some lawsuits brought by emergency responders in some situations. However, exceptions to the general rule do exist. To learn more about how Indiana law may apply to your situation, and to discuss your case with a dedicated personal injury attorney, call 888-532-7766 to schedule a free consultation today. Calling is free and will not result in any obligation to you or your family unless we are able to help you obtain the compensation you deserve.
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U.S. Supreme Court Rejects GM Appeal in Ignition-Switch Lawsuit, Indiana Injury Lawyer Blog, April 26, 2017