Georgia Appellate Court Discusses Fireman’s Rule in Recent Car Accident Case

Earlier this month, the state’s appellate court issued a written opinion in a Georgia car accident case requiring the court to discuss the fireman’s rule. Ultimately, the court concluded that the defendant’s allegedly negligent actions were both the cause of the incident necessitating the plaintiff’s presence at the scene as well as the cause of the plaintiff’s accident. As a result, the court determined that the fireman’s rule precluded the plaintiff’s recovery.

The Facts of the Case

On the day of the accident, a motorist was traveling on a Georgia highway when he lost control after encountering a patch of grass clippings that had become wet and slick after a rainstorm. The motorist’s vehicle slid off the road, rolled over, and then came to a stop in a roadside ditch. The motorist called 911 for assistance.

The plaintiff received the radio call for assistance and sped to the scene, traveling at speeds of up to 100 miles per hour. The plaintiff unfastened his safety belt so that he could more quickly exit his vehicle upon arrival, but as his vehicle encountered the same patch of wet grass clippings, he lost control. The plaintiff’s patrol car veered off the road and struck a tree, severely injuring the plaintiff.

The plaintiff initially applied for and obtained workers’ compensation benefits for his injury. However, he later filed a third-party personal injury lawsuit against the defendant, the business that left the grass clippings on the highway. Evidently, an employee for the defendant had mowed the lawn but failed to clean up the clippings afterwards.

At trial, the defendant asked the court to dismiss the case against it, arguing that the fireman’s rule preluded the plaintiff’s lawsuit. In Georgia, the fireman’s rule states that emergency responders “are precluded from recovery for injuries received when they are injured as a result of the negligence that caused them to be called to the scene.” The focus of the inquiry is whether the negligently created risk that resulted in the officer’s injury was the same risk that necessitated the officer’s presence. If yes, the fireman’s rule applies, and the officer is prevented from recovery.

The trial court determined that the wet grass clippings were not the reason for the plaintiff’s presence at the scene of the accident. Thus, the defendant’s motion was denied initially. However, the appellate court reversed that decision, finding that the wet grass clippings caused both accidents, and as a result, the fireman’s rule applied.

The court explained that, absent a showing that the grass clippings were blown onto the roadway in a willful or wanton manner, the fireman’s rule barred the plaintiff’s recovery. Since there was no evidence that this was the case, the court dismissed the plaintiff’s claim.

Have You Been Injured in a Georgia Car Accident?

If you or a loved one has recently been injured in a Georgia car accident, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. The above discussion is not meant to deter law enforcement officers from pursuing third-party personal injury lawsuits against those responsible for their injuries, only to illustrate that there may be hurdles in your road to recovery. The fireman’s rule is not often applied, and the burden is on the defendant to establish the rule’s applicability. To learn more about Georgia car accident law as it pertains to your accident, call McAleer Law at 404-622-5337 to schedule a free consultation.

See More Posts:

Georgia Supreme Court Dismisses Defendant’s Summary Judgment Challenge in Recent Premises Liability Opinion, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, October 18, 2017.

Court Excludes Key Witness at Trial Due to Plaintiff’s Failure to Identify Witness Before Trial, Georgia Injury Attorney Blog, September 27, 2017.