Under the category of “no good deed goes unpunished” a recent story in The Arizona Republic details the tale of Officers Pete Torres and Ricky Alvarado, from the City of Maricopa, Arizona, who are police officers that were participating in a toy run during the holiday season. Along with about 400 other motorcycle drivers – many of which where also apparently police officers doing a good deed bringing toys on a 60 mile roundtrip from Chandler, Arizona to Maricopa, Arizona they were involved in an Arizona motorcycle accident when another biker cut in front of them.
This type of accident raises the discussion of what is often referred to as the “firefighter’s rule” or the “fireman’s rule” which bars police officers from being compensated for their injuries.
Now, in this case there would be a strong argument that Officer Alvarado and Officer Torres do have the right to seek compensation beyond just the workers’ compensation they are probably already receiving.
The firefighter’s rule is an archaic rule that literally dates back to English common law that has evolved throughout the history of the United States to prevent police officers and firefighters hurt while in the line of duty from receiving compensation for injuries they receive while performing tasks in the line of duty. Now, in Arizona police officers have the right to file lawsuits even if they were hurt in the line of duty if their injuries were not the direct result of an incident that they were required to attend as part of their job duties. Until recently, personal injury claims in Arizona involving police officers have always had to contend with a rule that would prevent them from recovering damages. Unfortunately, the Arizona Supreme Court recently agreed that police officers are limited by the firefighter’s rule, even though many states throughout the country are starting to eliminate this rule.
The firefighters and police officers throughout Phoenix Arizona, Maricopa Arizona, and throughout Maricopa County should have every bit as much right to recover for their injuries as anybody else. These people put their lives on the line to protect others and they should not have a rule that limits them from collecting as a result of the negligence of another. While there may be some rare exceptions to this, certainly these officers and others who are out doing a good deed should have the right to seek compensation for the injuries they suffered during the Arizona auto accident.
Whether or not these officers have a right in this case would require the detail analysis of an experienced personal injury lawyer in Arizona. However, there is a lot of misinformation and it may be that most police officers – and from my discussions with them certainly many – believe they have no right to seek compensation if they are hurt while doing anything job related. That is not the case. Hopefully, the Arizona Courts or the Arizona Legislation will eventually come around and “see the light” and make sure that those people who risk their lives for the benefit of society are not limited to their rights to receive fair compensation when they are injured by the negligence of another.