Kentucky Firefighter’s Rule is Alive and Well
On April 25, 2018, John Crawford was driving on Interstate 71 in Henry County, Kentucky and he saw two stray dogs on the side of the interstate. He called 911 and a Kentucky State Trooper came to the scene and both men attempted to corral the dogs. They were walking along the shoulder of a bridge with the dogs when there was an accident between two tractor trailers. As a result of the accident, Mr. Crawford was killed and the trooper was knocked off the bridge and sustained serious injuries. The trooper made a personal injury claim against the tractor trailers. The tractor trailers asserted the fireman’s rule to deny the trooper’s claim and an appeal to the Kentucky Court of Appeals followed. The court rendered its decision in January of 2023 denying the application of the Kentucky Firefighter’s rule.
Kentucky Firefighter’s Rule Explained
The Kentucky Firefighter’s rule was first adopted in Kentucky in 1964. It is a common law rule that provides an exclusion to the liability for negligence. The general rule provides that the owner or occupant is not liable for creating the condition necessitating the fireman’s presence, but may be liable for failure to warn of unusual or hidden hazards. The purpose of this rule is to encourage the public to call a public protection agency for the benefit to themselves and the general public. The rule bars all public employees from making claims for negligence, who, as an incident of their occupation come to a given location to engage a specific risk, but the rule only applies to that risk. The obvious application is when a fireman comes to someone’s house to put out a fire.
The Kentucky Firefighter’s Rule only Applies to the Risk Engaged by the Public Employee
In the accident described above, the Court found that the Firefighter’s rule did not apply to the state trooper’s claim because he did not respond to a call about the tractor trailer accident. He was at the scene due to a call about the lost dogs. The state trooper was not injured by the risk he was called to remedy- the lost dogs. The Court pointed out that even if the state trooper was at a scene of an accident and was injured while directing traffic by another vehicle, the firefighter’s rule would not apply because he was not at the scene because of the second accident.
Although the firefighter’s rule is alive and well in Kentucky, its limited application to the risk the public employee was called to remedy makes it a reasonable rule. In the case of the lost dogs, the police officer would be barred from a claim by the owners of the dogs if he was bitten or injured himself while attempting to corral them. However, the public employees deserve the protection of the laws for anything outside the normal risk that they have agreed to take when they began their employment.
Do Not Stop in the Emergency Lane of the Interstate Unless Absolutely Necessary
John Crawford did a good deed in trying to help two lost dogs on the interstate, but he may have been too casual in his regard for his own safety. The interstate, by its very nature, has vehicles traveling at a high rate of speed and it is populated by large commercial trucks. This is a dangerous environment. Being in the emergency lane is no place of safety and it should be avoided absent an extreme emergency. Mr. Crawford would have been better served to call 911 about the dogs but to leave the resolution of the problem to the professionals.
I represented a man who was helping a lady, who ran out of gas on an interstate and they were both struck by a tractor-trailer where the driver apparently fell asleep and drifted off the roadway. The man was killed in the accident and the lady survived somehow. The emergency lane on an interstate is not a safe place and should be avoided.
CONTACT KENTUCKY AUTO ACCIDENT LAWYER
If you are involved in a car, truck or motorcycle accident, you will require the services of an experienced Kentucky auto accident attorney to investigate the cause of the accident and maximize all benefits available to the victims and their families. Matthew Troutman, a Kentucky auto accident lawyer, of the Troutman Law Office has been handling auto accident claims, almost exclusively, since 1986 and has the experience and talent to obtain the best result for the victims in the above car accident.
If you need legal assistance due to a motor vehicle accident, contact Kentucky auto accident attorney Matthew Troutman directly at 502-648-9507 or 859-696-0001 and he will meet with you in the hospital, your home or wherever is convenient for you. He will give you direct access through his cell phone and guide you through the difficult process necessary to obtain the best result possible for you in your car accident claim. To learn more about Lexington car accident attorney Matthew Troutman and the Troutman Law Office, click here.