It is now finally safe to say that New Jersey’s “Fireman’s Rule” which prevented lawsuits by first responders is dead. In 2006, the Appellate Courts of New Jersey recognized and upheld the Fireman’s Act signed into law by former Governor Jim Florio in 1995. This law gives a right of recovery to first responders for injury or death which might be either “directly or indirectly the result of neglect, willful admission, or willful or culpable conduct of any person or entity, other than the law enforcement officer, firefighter or first aid ambulance or rescue squad member”.
At it’s core, this Act allows first responders to sue property owners for injuries caused by unsafe conditions encountered responding to an emergency.
The benefit to the first responder is that it creates an additional right to sue for injury, pain and suffering, and death over and above any benefits such as workers’ compensation or those provided by the pension system.
An owner of a premises has a duty to take such steps as a reasonable and prudent person would view to correct or give warning of hazardous conditions or defects actually known to the owner, and of hazardous conditions or defects which the owner, through the exercise of reasonable care, could discover.
To recover for negligence against a property owner, someone must first prove that the property was in defective condition; that the existence of that condition was known or should have been known to the owner; that the owner failed to act reasonably under the circumstances; and, that the injuries suffered was proximately caused by that defect.
Someone injured by a defective product can sue its manufacturer either because the product was defective in its design, defective by manufacture, or the product failed to contain adequate warnings of its hidden or not so hidden dangers. Of course, many products can be intentionally misused to cause injury and some products by their very nature will present hazards such as a knife. Anyone injured by a defective product should first keep the product and not alter it or change it in any way. This includes the materials that came with the product, such as booklets or instructions in the packages.
There are some recent examples where first responders have been allowed to sue for injuries. These include a police officer struck by an impaired driver at a DWI stop; a police officer injured by debris on the floor of a warehouse while responding to an alarm at night; a police officer being assaulted while responding to a domestic violence complaint; a firefighter suffering smoke inhalation while fighting a fire caused by a vandal setting fire to improperly stored paint cans; or firefighter injured while trying to put out a fire started by an improperly maintained gas grill.
Stark & Stark as your civil attorneys stands ready to assist first responders and their families with a full array of investigative and legal resources to protect the rights of first responders especially from the negligence or actions which may cause your injuries.
Third Party Claims
We at Stark & Stark know that figuring out the benefits and regulations for injured or sick public employees is a difficult, time consuming, and often confusing process. Stark & Stark has a group of lawyers, supported by a team of paralegals who practice only in the workers’ compensation area for clients injured on the job. These injuries may include traumatic accidents, occupational diseases, and injuries caused by toxic substances or even stress. Our lawyers will make sure you receive all the benefits available to you including lost wages, payment of authorized medical expenses, and, if appropriate, a cash award for your injuries. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to give us a call.