Legal Information for Firefighters
The Line of Duty Member Injury Report (known as a CD-72) is one of the most important documents that falls within the purview of the FDNY Regulations of the Uniformed Force (ROUF). Of course, as any officer will tell you, it must, first and foremost, be prepared within the guidelines set forth in the ROUF.
However, equally as important, it must be filled out accurately to reflect the essential facts and circumstances of the accident and injury. The salutary purpose of this accuracy is to both protect your pension as well as to create an accurate history of the occurrence in the event of any future litigation.
With respect to an accidental disability pension, one must be mindful of the incident/accident dichotomy. If your injury is the result of something that is deemed not to be accidental, fortuitous or unforeseen it may result in a denial of a 3/4 pension.
For example, if a member, while sliding down the pole at quarters, lands on the floor padding and tears up a knee, and fails to note on a CD-72 that the accident was as a result of undue moisture on the pole, this could be deemed an incident. Members are supposed to know through training how to properly slide the pole. Thus, a CD-72, which states: member injured knee while sliding pole, may be construed as an incident—however, if the water or moisture on the pole was the precipitating cause of a knee injury, this must be explicitly specified.
After two decades of representing firefighters, it never ceases to amaze us how careless some members are when it comes to protecting their own legal rights. This is especially evident in some of the court cases where negligent landlords and commercial tenants cause injury to firefighters by reason of all manner of fire and building code violations.
Question: Which of the following CD-72 descriptions is potentially harmful to a firefighter's chance of getting justice in court?
The two CD-72s above are examples of a good one and a particularly bad one. The top one gives a thorough description of where the member's line-of-duty (LOD) accident occurred (while ascending stairs, marble tread collapsed under my rt foot...) and how his injuries were sustained (fall...through step...my head slammed into the steps...).
Unfortunately, the CD-72 on the bottom does not accurately reflect how the member's accident occurred.
When that member first came to us, he reported that he had tripped over debris and boxes that were left on the stairs leading to the basement. He also told us that the lights on the landing were out, making visibility poor. Unfortunately, he failed to include any of these critical factors when he signed his CD-72. Simply stating he slipped on stairs was not descriptive enough.
While it is certainly possible to submit an amended CD-72 to more accurately reflect the facts of one's accident, you can imagine how devastating the eventual cross-examination of that member will be. Proving that the member actually tripped over boxes, rather than slipped on water from the hose, will be an uphill battle. While we hope to get this member a fair settlement for his serious knee injury, it may well be less than what he is entitled to.
The plain message here for LOD accident victims is that while the CD-72 records your LOD injury, what is frequently overlooked is the importance of a complete and accurate description of how the injury occurred. It is your right to ensure that the CD-72 is completed properly and to your satisfaction. Pictures of the defective condition that caused your accident are always helpful to help a jury or the pension board see for themselves what caused your injury. Noting a defect or building violation that contributed to your accident, along with documenting for yourself the names of witnesses, will help you in all respects.
Also, be mindful that litigation against negligent building owners is almost always adversarial, and proceedings before the 1-B Board can become just as challenging. Do not create unnecessary problems by failing to accurately complete your CD-72s.
Barasch McGarry announces ongoing legal support program for retired firefighters
The New York City injury lawyers at Barasch McGarry Salzman & Penson, PC know that once a firefighter, always a firefighter. Retired members have legal questions too, perhaps more of them after they leave the job.
Therefore, we welcome all retired firefighters to call our personal injury law firm in NY for a free legal consultation anytime. If your question is outside our area of expertise, we will find a competent attorney in that area to advise you. We have relationships with financial advisors, real estate, elder care, criminal defense, and insurance professionals. We also have close ties to attorneys who write wills, set up simple trusts, and protect your assets if you are having financial troubles.
Please do not hesitate to call us anytime you have a question about a legal matter. Whether you are an active or retired firefighter, it is our privilege to help you. For your free consultation, call 888-746-8212 or contact us online.