Appellate Court Discusses “Rescue Doctrine” as It Applies to Police and Firefighters

Last month, an appellate court issued a written opinion in a car accident case that was brought by a police officer who was injured while responding to an emergency call. Ultimately, the court concluded that since the officer was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident, the “firefighter’s rule” prevented him from recovering compensation for his injuries.

The Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was a police officer who was responding to the scene of an accident that had been called in while he was on duty. The call was for a single-vehicle accident that left a pick-up truck blocking the southbound lanes of the highway. The plaintiff was given the location of the accident and told that the blockage was in the southbound lanes.

As the officer was responding to the scene, he saw headlights up ahead. He believed them to be those of the disabled vehicle. However, the headlights belonged to another motorist’s vehicle that had stopped to assist the pick-up truck driver. As the officer approached the scene at 104 miles per hour, he crashed into the pick-up truck, which had its lights off. The driver of the pick-up truck was later determined to be legally intoxicated.

The officer filed the claim against the allegedly drunk driver, claiming that the pick-up truck driver created a dangerous situation that resulted in the officer sustaining serious injuries. The driver of the pick-up truck argued that, as a police officer, the plaintiff cannot recover compensation for injuries he sustained while on the job.

The Rescue Doctrine

As a general rule, a party who negligently places himself in a situation where he needs to be rescued can be held liable for any injury that occurs to his rescuer. However, under what has become to be known as the “firefighter’s rule,” certain emergency responders cannot recover, based on the fact that it is their job to rescue people in peril. The question for the court was whether the firefighter’s rule should be extended to include police officers.

The court concluded that the same reasoning that prevents lawsuits by firefighters injured in the line of duty equally applies to police officers when injured in the line of duty. Thus, the court determined that the police officer could not pursue his claim against the pick-up truck driver.

In Washington, D.C., the firefighter’s rule does apply, although with some important exceptions. Anyone who has been injured while attempting to assist or rescue another person in danger should consult with a dedicated personal injury attorney to discuss their case.

Do You Need an Attorney?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured while attempting to assist those involved in a Washington, D.C. car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The skilled injury attorneys at the Washington, D.C. law firm of Lebowitz & Mzhen Personal Injury Lawyers have extensive experience representing victims in all types of car accident cases, including those involving injuries sustained while attempting to assist those in danger. To learn more, and to speak with an attorney about your case, call 410-654-3600 today to schedule a free consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Appellate Court Finds in Favor of Landlord in Deck Collapse Case, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, April 11, 2017

Track-and-Field Spectator Awarded $350K after Being Struck By Discus, Washington DC Injury Lawyer Blog, April 28, 2017

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