Can a firefighter (who is injured on the job by the negligence of a third party) sue that party, in addition to getting workers’ compensation benefits?

The answer to that question is a resounding, YES! The New Jersey Fireman’s Rule began as a common law principle in 1960. The rule essentially stood for the proposition that firefighters, in choosing their profession, willingly accepted all of the risks, and relinquished any right to sue others based on that third party’s negligence. An example of a negligent third party act is where a firefighter or other first responder is injured by an unsafe condition on a homeowner’s property while responding to a fire or other emergency.  

In 2006, the courts in New Jersey finally recognized and upheld the Fireman’s Act that had previously been signed into law by former governor Jim Florio in 1995. This law gives a right of recovery, in addition to workers’ compensation benefits, to Firefighters and other first responders for injury or death which is either:

directly or indirectly the result of negligence, willful admission, or willful or culpable conduct of any person or entity, other than the law enforcement office, firefighter or first aid, ambulance or rescue squad member.

By way of example, a first responder can now sue a third party for negligence in the following types of situations:

  • Trip and Fall on a curb when responding to a fire or domestic violence complaint
  • Sustaining lung or other injures from a defective breathing apparatus or inhalation of other substances negligently on the property
  • Building collapses because of defective construction injuring a police officer, firefighter or other first responder
  • Sustaining injuries because an improperly stored chemical explodes during a fire rescue attempt

This right to sue by the first responder is in addition to the workers’ compensation benefits already allowed by law.