Maryland’s “Firefighter’s Rule” and How It Can Apply to Maryland Personal Injury Cases

Under Maryland premises liability law, someone who is injured while on another’s property may be able to hold the property owner liable for any injuries they sustain as a result of the landowner’s negligence. However, there are certain exceptions to this general rule. One exception is the “firefighter’s rule.”

Maryland’s firefighter rule “generally prohibits firefighters and police officers from recovering tort damages from those whose negligence necessitated their services.” The rule and its history are described in depth in a 2011 opinion authored the Maryland Court of Appeals.

In that case, a police officer was injured in a high-speed chase. Evidently, the police dispatcher gave the officer incorrect information that the officer relied upon when deciding to engage in the high-speed chase. The injured police officer filed a Maryland personal injury claim against the state based on the dispatcher’s negligence. The state claimed that the police officer should be prevented from recovering for his injuries under the firefighter’s rule. The case allowed the court to discuss the state’s firefighter rule and in what circumstances it should be applied.

The court began with a lengthy discussion about the history of the firefighter’s rule. The court explained that the rule was initially based upon the theory that a landowner should not be responsible for keeping their property safe for responding firefighters. Over the years, however, the court explained that the concept behind the rule was equally applicable to other situations, and determined that the basis for the rule as really a public policy judgment. The court at that time held that “the very nature of a firefighter’s or police officer’s occupation limits the public safety officer’s ability to recover in tort for work-related injuries.” Essentially, the court wanted to avoid a situation in which someone who negligently created the need for a public safety officer could be held legally liable for any subsequent injuries to responding officers.

The court then returned to the facts of the case, holding that the firefighter’s rule prevented the plaintiff from pursuing a claim against the state based on the alleged negligence of the police dispatcher. The court explained that the plaintiff’s injuries were the result of the negligence of the dispatcher, and not based on the underlying reason for the 911 call (a reported robbery). Thus, the court held that the firefighter’s rule precluded the plaintiff from holding the dispatcher liable case because the dispatcher was the person who was responsible for putting the plaintiff in the situation in which he was injured. In so holding, the court also rejected the plaintiff’s argument that the firefighter’s rule should not apply to cases between public safety officers.

Have You Been Injured in a Maryland Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while serving as a public safety officer, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you have sustained. While the firefighter’s rule may apply in some limited situations, do not assume that it will prevent you from recovering for your injuries. At the law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen, LLC, we represent injury victims in Maryland premises liability claims, as well as cases arising in Virginia and Washington, D.C. We also handle Maryland car accidents and other automobile accidents. To learn more about how our dedicated team of personal injury advocates can help you pursue a claim for compensation, call 410-654-3600 today.

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