Police Officers, Firefighters and Worker's Compensation: Is It The Only Remedy If They Are Injured On The Job ?

Posted By Michael R. Varble || 31-Oct-2013

In today's blog post, I discuss the issue of whether police officers and firefighters are only permitted to collect worker's compensation benefits if they are injured in the line of duty. If you are a police officer or firefighter and you have been injured in the line of duty, you have rights and they are not limited by worker's compensation.

In New York, General Municipal Law § 205-a creates a cause of action in addition to any other right of action for recovery for the injury or disease that results in death of any officer, member, agent or employee of any fire department injured, or whose life was lost while discharging their duty. The claim may be filed by the firefighter or the firefighter's estate when the injury or loss of life was directly or indirectly caused by any neglect, omission, willful or culpable negligence of anyone in failing to comply with the requirements of any law. The particular law at issue must have a clear direction or arise out of a well developed body of law requiring someone to perform or not perform a specific act.

What does this mean ? Well, one example is the administrative code sections in New York City (§27-127 and § 27-128) that impose on property owners the responsibility to keep all buildings maintained in a safe condition and to keep all service equipment, means of egress, devices and safeguards that are required by law in good working order. In other words, if a firefighter is injured because of a condition on property, they have an independent right to file suit against the property owner and/or tenent even though they were injured while working. I am also quite sure that there are many other municipal ordinances in numerous other towns and cities that place similar responsibilities on property owners just like the New York City administrative code. This type of claim will apply to any firefighter throughout the State of New York.

One benefit that an injured person has with a claimed violation under GML § 205-a is that the injured person does not have to show actual or constructive notice of the defect. Normally, in a premises liability claim, the injured party/plaintiff has to show that the defective condition was know or existed for such a period of time that it should have been discovered by the property owner or tenant and corrected. In a claim such as this by a firefighter, he or she only needs to show the failure to comply with the local law or regulation indicates a failure that resulted from neglect, omission, willful or culpable negligence. The violation of the local law or ordinance must also be reasonably related to the injury suffered as well. The plaintiff firefighter does not, however, need to show that the violation caused the injury or death.

Regarding police officers, General Municipal Law § 205-e creates a cause of action in favor of any officer, member, agent, or employee of any police department injured or whose life may be lost while in the discharge or performance of their duties. This statute, just like GML § 205-a, permits a claim by a police officer when they are injured as the result of any negligence, omission, willful or culpable negligence of anyone in failing to comply with the requirements of any law. One somewhat unique issue that arises in the cases with police officers is that violations of the executive law, which normally are parole officer's failure to file a detention warrant for a parole violation, has given rise to a valid claim for that death or injury of a police officer shot by a parolee. Violations of the vehicle and traffic law have been found to be a valid basis for this type of claim as well. Officers, however, cannot file a claim against their own department as a result of the negligence of a co-employee.

Comparative negligence and assumption of risk by the injured police officer cannot be used by a defendant as defenses to liability. Intervening illegal acts are likewise not a defense to liability as well.

What does all of this mean to our readers in Internet land ? If you are a firefighter or a police officer and you have been injured in the line of duty, you are not limited to worker's compensation remedies. If you have been injured due, in part to someone's negligence, you have the right to file suit and seek financial damages for injuries suffered as a result of someone failing to comply with the law. In the event you or someone you love who is a police officer or a firefighter has been injured in the line of duty, please give us a call for a free consultation and a free case evaluation. We have over 150 combined years of combined experience that we would like to put to work for you. Feel free to call us at 1.800.900.6204 and allow us to fight for you !

Categories: Personal Injury

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