“Fireman’s Rule” Prevents Police Officer from Pursuing Personal Injury Case

When someone is injured in a Virginia car accident, they may pursue compensation for the injuries they sustained through a personal injury lawsuit. Depending on the type of accident and the relationship between the parties, there may be one or more defenses that can prevent the defendant from being found liable for the plaintiff’s injuries. One defense, called the “fireman’s rule,” is discussed in a recent appellate opinion involving a police officer who was injured in a car accident while responding to the scene of an accident.

LawnmowerThe Facts of the Case

The plaintiff was on duty as a police officer when he received a radio call dispatching him to the scene of an accident where a motorist slid off the roadway, rolled, and ended up in a nearby field. The evidence presented showed that the motorist lost control of his vehicle when it encountered a patch of grass clippings. The clippings had been left behind when an employee of a nearby used car dealership mowed the grass and failed to clean up the clippings. A subsequent rain storm wet the clippings, which made a slick spot on the road.

As the plaintiff was responding to the scene, he encountered the area of the roadway with the wet grass clippings. The plaintiff lost control of his patrol car and ended up veering off the side of the road and into a tree, sustaining serious injuries as a result.

The plaintiff filed a lawsuit against the used car dealership, arguing that the employee of the dealership was negligent in failing to clean up the grass clippings, which caused the plaintiff to lose control of his patrol car and crash into the tree. The dealership argued that under the fireman’s rule, the plaintiff was precluded from recovering compensation for his injuries because, as a police officer, he assumed the risk of injury.

The Fireman’s Rule in Virginia

In Virginia, the fireman’s rule is a version of a larger common-law defense known as assumption of the risk. Under this doctrine, a plaintiff cannot recover for injuries that were sustained while participating in an activity that the plaintiff knew carried the specific risk of injury that resulted in the accident. The fireman’s rule applies to both police officers and firefighters, and it clarifies that, as a matter of law, these emergency responders assume a risk, as long as that risk is what brought them to the scene.

The Court’s Decision

The court concluded that the fireman’s rule barred the plaintiff’s lawsuit. The court explained that the risk that brought the plaintiff to the scene – the wet grass clippings – was the very same that caused the accident resulting in his injuries. Thus, the facts fit squarely within the fireman’s rule, and the plaintiff’s case was dismissed.

Have You Been Injured in a Virginia Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Virginia car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. While the fireman’s rule applies only to a narrow subset of Virginia personal injury plaintiffs, other defenses to your claim may exist. However, with the assistance of an experienced Virginia personal injury attorney, you can be prepared for any defense that the other side may bring. Call the law offices of Charles B. Roberts, P.C. at 703-491-7070 to schedule a free consultation with a knowledgeable and experienced Virginia personal injury attorney. Calling is free, and we will not bill you for our services unless we are able to help you recover compensation for your injuries.

See More Blog Posts:

Statutes of Limitations in Virginia Personal Injury Cases, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, October 5, 2017.

Plaintiff’s Lack of Diligence in Pursuing Claim Results in Dismissal with Prejudice, Virginia Injury Lawyers Blog, September 26, 2017.