You knew when you became a firefighter in New York City that it could be a dangerous occupation. However, you probably never expected to sustain serious injuries in the line of duty due to the negligence of your employer and other parties tasked with keeping you safe. If you are currently struggling with a serious personal injury from firefighter accidents, we want you to know that the law firm of Raphaelson & Levine is here for you.
As an NYC firefighter injured in the line of duty, we invite you to schedule a free consultation with our injury lawyers. Raphaelson & Levine have secured favorable settlements for people suffering from firefighter injuries for nearly 30 years. In addition to New York City proper, we work with clients in Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, the Bronx, Staten Island, Long Island, and throughout New York State. Please don’t hesitate to contact us today at 212-268-3222.
Most Common Types of Firefighting Accidents and How They Occur
Firefighters from the FDNY sustain injuries the most often while actively fighting fires, completing training exercises, and acting as first responders during an emergency. It makes sense, then, that the most typical locations for these injuries to occur include inside of buildings owned by New York City, a local firehouse, and training facilities for new recruits and current staff.
However, not all serious injuries occur in the direct act of fighting fires. Motor vehicle accidents on the way to the scene, road defects, and faulty equipment also lead to a high percentage of personal injury claims from firefighters employed by the City of New York.
Top Occupational Dangers for Firefighters
The bravery of New York State firefighters was never on greater display than immediately after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. On that fateful day, 343 men and women lost their lives trying to bring the raging fires at the World Trade Center under control. Brave as NYC firefighters might be, however, they still deserve the proper equipment and working conditions to avoid a duty injury.
Here are some of the most common reasons firefighters from the New York City Fire Department sustain injuries and seek help from personal injury attorneys:
- Cancer: Not all NYC firefighter injuries happen right away. Some firefighters experience serious illnesses like cancer instead. This comes after years of exposure to carcinogen exposure on the job. Brain, kidney, and colon cancer are some of the most common among New Yorkers who work for the FDNY.
- Collapsing structures: As fire rips through homes and commercial buildings in NYC, the structure can collapse within seconds. It takes very little for a ceiling, wall, chimney, or other heavy structure to fall on New York’s bravest workers.
- Falls: Falls from heights such as a ladder is a common NYC firefighter injury. Active firefighting can also occur due to walking on burnt-out floors and working at high elevations. A fall can cause serious injuries such as broken bones and traumatic brain injury. Due to the heavy equipment firefighters wear, these line of duty injuries can be even more severe than those suffered by workers in other occupations.
- Fires: Every fire has the potential of causing burn injuries and other serious injuries for NYC firefighters. While every firefighter with the FDNY wears protective gear to protect against intense heat, this equipment isn’t foolproof. Faulty gear can mean the difference between putting out a fire safely and dealing with cancer, lung diseases, or the result of a significant injury for the rest of your life.
- Heart disease: Like cancer, heart disease is a leading cause of disability in firefighting. Constantly carrying heavy equipment, stress, and smoke inhalation are just some things that contribute to this difficult diagnosis.
- Smoke inhalation: Unfortunately, smoke can still get through the masks and face shields firefighters wear on the job. Injured firefighters can experience immediate issues from this such as brain or lung damage due to lack of oxygen. Repeated exposure can also increase their risk of cancer, heart disease, and other serious long-term health conditions.
- Stress: There’s no question that firefighting is a stressful occupation. Some NYC firefighters turn to smoking to deal with the stress while others have an increased risk of heart attack, serious mental health issues, ulcers, and much more.
The above represent just some of the serious injuries that our state’s first responders could incur while fighting everything from a small fire to a raging inferno.
Laws Protecting Our New York Firefighters
If you have suffered an injury in the line of duty as a firefighter, you may have a right to recovery under two laws: General Municipal Law § 205-e and General Obligations Law §11-106.
General Municipal Law §205a
Injured firefighters can pursue compensation under this law in certain circumstances. This also applies to the family members of firefighters killed on the job or who die due to work-related illnesses. The cause of the injury or illness must be direct or indirect negligence that demonstrates the other party failed to follow certain state laws. The negligence may be willful, culpable, or by omission.
The minimum compensation available is $10,000 for serious injuries or illness or $40,000 to surviving family members when a firefighter dies from work-related causes. A legal violation can include an order, statute, rule, or ordinance committed by a city, town, village, county, state, or federal government. This includes all bureaus, departments, and divisions under the jurisdiction of the defendant.
This General Municipal Law doesn’t allow for contributory negligence or assumption of risk as a defense when filed against New York City. Remember that your illness or injury can be direct or indirect and the defendant doesn’t need to be the one to cause it. You can invoke this legal protection due to violation of a city, state, or federal statute and the city can bear responsibility for your illness or injury. You need only a reasonable or practical connection between the statutory violation and the injury or illness you suffered, including COVID.
General Obligations Law §11-106
With this type of claim, workers who have sustained firefighter injuries or surviving members of firefighters who have died from a work-related illness or injury can pursue financial compensation from parties other than the employer or a co-worker. You can file separately or in conjunction with the above state law. The grounds for filing and rules related to negligence are the same.
You will need to complete a form called Line of Duty Member Injury Report (CD-72) to initiate your claim. You should include a thorough description of your accident or injury for efficient processing of your claim.
Personal Injury: COVID Exposure
It’s also possible that you’re a firefighter injured from COVID exposure since both police officers and firefighters are essential workers. You may have even picked up the virus and suffered serious illness before the world knew what it was. Even though you might brush it off and not want anyone to call you a hero, that’s exactly what you are from a personal and legal perspective. You willingly face increased risks every day in New York State, an area that has more positive COVID cases and deaths than anywhere in the world.
As a public servant who faces the regular risk of sustaining NYC firefighter injuries, you now must deal with the anxiety of picking up a potentially deadly virus as well. New York law recognizes this, which is why employers must provide special protections to police officers and firefighters that people in other occupations don’t necessarily receive. Because of this special protection, you have the legal right to pursue a workers’ compensation case against your employer in situations where your injury or illness resulted from a direct or indirect statutory violation. This is true even when normal NYC regulations don’t include the specific statutory violation.
How to Proceed with a COVID Personal Injury Claim
To initiate a claim as an injured firefighter with a positive case of COVID, you need to show proof that the city or a third party violated a statute that placed you in harm’s way. Firefighters and police officers have the right to proceed with a claim under New York’s General Municipal Law. However, your claim of negligence cannot be against your employer as that would fall under the workers’ compensation system. However, no common negligence law exists for firefighters and police officers exposed to very high risk on the job.
If you have suffered a firefighter injury in New York State, you may be eligible to file a personal injury lawsuit under one of two laws. While not written specifically to address the increased line of duty risk of COVID, both laws can apply if you have developed that illness. They can also help you recover funds for serious injuries and non-COVID related illnesses.
Contact Raphaelson & Levine for a Free Case Evaluation Today
We admire your bravery as a member of FDNY and want to help you through a challenging time. Please contact us at 212-268-3222 or complete our online contact form to request your free case evaluation with our law firm.
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