First Responders and COVID-19 Injury Claims
Paramedics, police officers, firefighters, and other first responders face certain risks inherent risks in their duties. If injured in the performance of their duties as a result of risks associated with their jobs, generally, they may not recover compensation in a personal injury claim based on negligence. First responders in New York are entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured in the line of duty.
What Is the Fireman’s Rule?
The Fireman’s (or Firefighter’s) Rule is a legal theory under which a property owner or occupant is not liable for unintentional injuries suffered by firefighters or police officers responding to a fire or a situation on the property. In New York, police officers and firefighters may not recover damages for line-of-duty injuries that result from risks associated with their jobs.
For example, a fireman who suffers burn injuries while fighting a building fire may not sue the building owner for damages. He or she will be eligible for workers’ compensation benefits, including medical expenses related to the injury and partial reimbursement for wages lost during recovery.
Can First Responders Sue for COVID-19 Injuries?
A first responder may have a personal injury claim in New York if the injury sustained had nothing to do with the performance of his or her job duties. For example, an EMT who was taking a vacation cruise and contracted COVID-19 on the ship may have a personal injury claim against the cruise line. The same may apply to an off-duty police officer who was exposed to the virus through someone else’s negligence.
Under state and NYC laws, police, paramedics, and firefighters who suffer injuries on the job unrelated to their job duties may file injury claims with the courts. Additionally, under the New York General Obligation Law, any police officer or firefighter who sustains an injury, disease, or death in the lawful discharge of official duties may seek and recover damages against a third party (other than an employer or co-worker) whose “neglect, willful omission, or intentional, willful or culpable conduct” caused the injury.
Does Workers’ Compensation Bar COVID-19 Injury Claims?
Employees in New York can receive workers’ compensation benefits for disease or infection that may naturally and unavoidably arise out of or result from the course of employment, as well as accidental injuries and occupational diseases. If COVID-19 is treated as an occupational illness or injury, state workers’ compensation statutes may bar personal injury claims against employers by employees who have contracted the virus at work.
What Recourse Does a First Responder Have after Contracting COVID-19?
If you are a police office, firefighter, or EMT who has contracted the coronavirus in the line of duty, contact The Law Offices of Michael S. Lamonsoff, PLLC, for a virtual consultation. You are likely entitled to workers’ compensation benefits through your employer’s insurer. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your particular case, you may have a third-party claim for compensation. Our New York injury lawyer can explain your options under the law.