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State Court Upholds Firefighter’s Rule and Extends Its Application to Law Enforcement Officers

Posted in Auto Accidents

Recently, a state supreme court released an opinion in a lawsuit brought by two officers who were injured while they were in the process of helping an individual who had fallen asleep behind the wheel of a car. According to the court’s opinion, the two officers received a call about a traffic accident and were dispatched to the scene. The officers were speeding to the scene of the accident when the officer operating the police vehicle did not see a disabled pickup truck in the middle of the southbound lane. The police officers crashed into the disabled vehicle, resulting in serious injuries.

It was later discovered that the individual in the disabled vehicle had a blood alcohol content of .103. Both officers applied for and received worker’s compensation benefits for the injuries they sustained as a result of the accident. The officers subsequently filed a negligence lawsuit against the pickup truck driver, claiming that the driver’s negligence caused them to suffer injuries and damages. The pickup truck driver claimed that the officers were partially at fault in causing the accident. He also argued that the firefighter’s rule barred all of the claims.

The Firefighter’s Rule in Personal Injury Cases

The firefighter’s rule prevents a firefighter who has been injured from recovering damages when the injury was caused by the negligence that originally required their presence in an official capacity at the scene of the accident. The district court granted summary judgment in favor of the defendant, finding that the firefighter rule should be extended to cover law enforcement officers injured in the line of duty. The appellate court agreed.

Firefighter’s Rule and Application in New Mexico

Essentially, the firefighter’s rule is based on the theory that those individuals who choose careers that pay them to put themselves in danger, such as firefighters, willingly understand and assume the inherent risks of the job. Since these professionals understand the risks and repercussions of this type of career, they are not entitled to pursue lawsuits for injuries they suffered while carrying out the tasks associated with their position. The determining factor in these cases is often whether the damages or injuries sustained were related to the inherent dangers that are associated with the specific profession. Although this rule was originally designed to address firefighters, it may be applied to other law enforcement personnel as well.

Although New Mexico traditionally followed the firefighter’s rule, several years ago, a New Mexico Supreme Court decision stopped applying the firefighter’s rule. As the law currently stands, firefighters and emergency personnel are permitted to bring lawsuits against individuals who allegedly caused their injuries, regardless of whether they were in the process of performing their job duties when the injury occurred.

Have You Been Injured Due to Another Person’s Negligence in New Mexico?

As you can see, rules and laws can vary greatly among states. In the event that you or a loved one has been injured in a New Mexico car accident, you should contact an attorney at the Fine Law Firm. The attorneys at the Fine Law Firm are well-versed in all areas of personal injury law and have an up-to-date knowledge of changes in the law. If you have been injured, they will be able to address your rights and remedies. If you are successful, you may be entitled to monetary compensation for the injuries you sustained. Contact one of the dedicated Albuquerque car accident attorneys at the Fine Law Firm today at 800-640-6590 to schedule your free initial consultation.

More Blog Posts:

Court Dismisses Slip-and-Fall Plaintiff’s Case Under Recreational Use Statute, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, April 5, 2017.

The Concept of Vicarious Liability in New Mexico Car Accidents, New Mexico Personal Injury Lawyer Blog, April 27, 2017.