Medical Malpractice and Personal Injury Law Blog

​Firefighters Hurt in Baltimore Blaze Can Only File Suit if it Was Arson: The Firefighter's Rule

Posted by Charles Gilman | Feb 28, 2019 | 0 Comments

A handful of firefighters have been hurt while battling a blaze in Baltimore. To the surprise of many outside the legal field, their ability to file a personal injury lawsuit and recover compensation for their injuries will likely depend on the ongoing investigation into the fire – their rights to compensation will depend on whether the fire was deliberately set or not.

Six Baltimore Firefighters Hurt in Blaze

Firefighters responded to a two-alarm fire in the McElderry Park neighborhood of eastern Baltimore at 8 a.m. on February 27th. A rowhouse was on fire, and firefighters rushed in to control the blaze, which left three people homeless. During the scene, six firefighters suffered burn injuries – one of them was a second-degree burn.

None of the injuries are considered life-threatening. Investigators are looking for signs that the fire was the result of arson.

The Firefighter's Rule of Personal Injury Law

Personal injury law aims to compensate victims who have been hurt as the result of someone else's negligence. However, when that victim was a firefighter – or other emergency response professional, like a police officer – their ability to recover compensation can face an important obstacle: The so-called “Firefighter's Rule.”

The Firefighter's Rule deals with a peculiar wrinkle in personal injury law: Should injured emergency responders be able to sue the people who negligently create the hazards they are paid to combat? Maryland and most other states have adopted the Firefighter's Rule, which says that they cannot.

Numerous reasons have been advanced to support this idea. In Maryland, the official reason has moved from premises liability – an emergency responder “takes the property as he finds it” – to a purely policy driven one – the nature of the job for emergency responders should limit their ability to recover compensation for work-related injuries in a personal injury lawsuit. This is not to say that injured first responders are out of luck.

They can still recover through workers' compensation. It just means that the people who accidentally create the emergency that led to the presence of a firefighter or police officer cannot be held liable for injuries that they suffer while responding to the situation.

Intentional Conduct Does Not Trigger the Rule

There is, of course, an exception: The Firefighter's Rule does not apply to intentional conduct. People who intentionally create an emergency, like an arsonist, can be held liable for a firefighter's injuries through a personal injury lawsuit. While this rule is controversial – critics point out, correctly, that firefighters responding to a fire neither know nor care whether it was accidentally or intentionally set, and do not alter their response to it – it is still the law in Maryland.

Maryland Personal Injury Lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian

First responders like firefighters and police officers face dangerous situations all the time and have some of the highest rates of on-the-job injuries in America. Recovering compensation for their injuries is an essential part of the job, for them. The personal injury lawyers at Gilman & Bedigian can work on their behalf to ensure they get the care they need, and the financial support to pay for it. Contact them online.

About the Author

Charles Gilman

As managing partner and co-founder of Gilman & Bedigian, it is my mission to help our clients recover and get their lives back on track. I strongly believe that every person who is injured by a wrongful act deserves compensation, and I will do my utmost to bring recompense to those who need and deserve it.

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