Can a Firefighter (or Other Professional) Injured On the Job Recover From the Person Who Caused Their Need to Rescue Another?

Posted by Scott A. Staples | Jan 18, 2022 | 0 Comments

Bill Thayer wrote a great summary in August of last year about the rescue doctrine, which makes negligent parties legally responsible for injuries suffered by rescuers coming to aid in the emergency created by the negligence. I write here to highlight one wrinkle to the rule I was reminded of recently: The “professional rescuer” doctrine.

This unique exception to the rescue doctrine holds that a person whose profession requires performing rescues (think police, firefighters, EMT's, and the like) cannot bring an action in negligence against the person whose negligence created the need for rescue for injuries to the rescuer arising out of the act that caused the rescuer to be called. It is a subset of the defense of “assumption of the risk.” However, it applies only to the types of risks normally assumed by a professional rescuer in their jobs.   

The concept of assumption of risk is a bigger topic for another post, but here it is simply worth noting that first responders may be limited in who they can bring a personal injury case against if they are injured on the job, and could be limited to their remedies under the workers compensation system, and in certain cases can bring claims against their own employers for negligence (unlike most of the rest of the working population whose employers are typically immune from negligence claims).  

About the Author

Scott A. Staples

Scott Staples came on board in 2006 as a clerk during law school, and joined the firm as an associate attorney in 2007. He was made a shareholder in the firm in 2010. Scott graduated, cum laude, from Washington State University Vancouver with a BA in English, and obtained his Juris Doctorate from Willamette University College of Law, with cum laude honors there as well. He has successfully represented clients in a variety of different types of injury cases, including auto collisions, premises liability, animal attacks, watercraft accidents, and construction site injuries. He has appeared, and won, before the Washington State Supreme Court (Weismann v. Safeco, 2012). Scott has volunteered time for the past several years at the Clark County Volunteer Lawyers Housing Justice Project. He has previously served on the new member and membership committees for the Washington State Association for Justice (WSAJ), and has acted as chair and co-chair of the WSAJ Clark County Roundtable. He is a member of the Washington and Oregon State Bar Associations, WSAJ and OTLA (state trial lawyer organizations), and is admitted to practice in all state and federal courts in Washington and Oregon. Scott was born and raised in Vancouver, attending Vancouver public schools and graduating from Hudson's Bay High School. He enjoys playing recreational basketball and softball, skiing, and spending time with his wife and three children.

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