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Firefighter Injuries

Fierce Advocates For New York Firefighters

No one knows better than firefighters that firefighting is a dangerous profession. However that doesn’t mean that all injuries are “just part of the job.” Under New York State law, injured firefighters have significant legal rights, although it was not always so.

The Firefighter’s Rule

There was a time when firefighters were prohibited from bringing a lawsuit for most line-of-duty injuries caused by someone’s negligence. In fact, firefighters were singled out in this respect, because most other workers could sue negligent third parties. Because this harsh treatment was reserved for firefighters alone, it was termed the “firefighter’s rule.”

Why were firefighters singled out this way? Courts essentially justified the rule by holding that firefighters “assumed the risks” of their dangerous profession.

The implications of the firefighter’s rule are obvious. A firefighter who sustained terrible injuries as a result of someone’s negligence could never be compensated for his loss. He could lose his career, his ability to work, and to support his family, without legal recourse. Worse still, the firefighter’s rule seemed to encourage negligence.

General Municipal Law 205-a

In 1935 the New York State legislature stepped in. It enacted General Municipal Law § 205-a, which permits firefighters to sue when they are injured as the result of someone’s violation of a statute, rule, or regulation. Still, courts were not quick to part ways with the firefighter’s rule. They applied GML § 205-a narrowly, often imposing limitations not contained in the statute. In response to these court decisions, the lawmakers have amended GML § 205-a a number of times, each time making clear that firefighters in New York are afforded far-reaching protections and ensuring that the statute be interpreted as the legislature intended.

Thankfully, recent court decisions and lawsuits brought on behalf of injured firefighters, some by our very own injury law firm, have confirmed that firefighters are indeed receiving these special protections. For example, a defendant may not argue that a firefighter was injured because of his own negligence, or that he “assumed the risk.” The connection between the statutory violation and the firefighter’s injury need not be as close as in an ordinary negligence case. The requirement that a plaintiff prove that a defendant knew about a violation is reduced in these cases as well.

What Statutes Apply?

To prevail in a lawsuit brought under General Municipal Law § 205-a, the injured firefighter must show that the wrongdoer violated a federal, state or local provision that is part of a “well-developed body of law.” Provisions from the New York City Administrative Code (including the Fire Code, the Housing Maintenance Code, and the Building Code), the New York State Multiple Dwelling Law, the New York State Vehicle and Traffic Law, and OSHA are frequently cited in GML § 205-a cases. Violations of the Penal Law and section 27-a of the New York State Labor Law have also been successfully asserted in such cases.

General Obligations Law § 11-106

In 1996, the legislature also enacted General Obligations Law § 11-106. This provision gives firefighters a cause of action in negligence (as opposed to the statutory cause of action afforded under GML § 205-a) for line of duty injuries, except against municipal employers and fellow workers. Thus, an injured firefighter now has two potential avenues for recovery from negligent parties. First, if the violation of a statute, rule or City ordinance caused injury to a firefighter, he may bring a lawsuit under GML § 205-a. Second, if someone’s negligence caused the injuries, regardless of if there was a violation of a statute, the firefighter may bring a cause of action in negligence, except against his employer.

What You Should Do If You Sustain A Line-of-duty Injury

Fill out an accurate CD-72 that specifies the negligent condition that caused your injury (because it will be an important piece of evidence, ask an officer for help if you have never filed this document). After you document your injury with a doctor or hospital, consult the firefighter law attorneys here at Barasch & McGarry. We have a vast amount of experience handling firefighter cases and we’ll work to ensure you receive the maximum amount of compensation for your injuries.

Find more information for Firefighters’ legal rights at:

Post-9/11 Cancer & Illness Compensation For Firefighters

Many firefighters who responded to the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001 and/or worked on rescue and reclamation at Ground Zero have suffered devastating illnesses due to toxic contamination. If you or a firefighter you know worked at Ground Zero or in Lower Manhattan in the months that followed 9/11, you may be eligible for significant compensation and free healthcare through the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund (VCF) and the World Trade Center Health Program (WTCHP). Injury claims for 9/11 illness have stringent deadlines so it’s important to act fast.

Find specific information on our 9/11 Victim Compensation Website:

Contact Us

If you or a firefighter you love suffered a disabling injury, you should explore all your legal options. To schedule a free consultation with a firefighter law attorney, call us at 844-874-1564 or contact our office online.

Firefighter Injuries

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