The New Mexico Supreme Court has determined that firefighters may recover damages for “intentional infliction of emotional distress while responding to a fire in spite of the firefighter’s rule. The firefighter’s rule bans emergency personnel from recovering damages from a property owner for injuries sustained while addressing an emergency on the owner’s premises.
The court found, however, that injuries (physical and emotional) that occur outside of the regular line of duty should be. The court stated “We…hold that a firefighter may recover damages if such were proximately caused by (1) intentional conduct; or (2) reckless conduct, provided the harm to the firefighters exceeded the scope of risks inherent in the firefighters’ professional duties.
The likelihood of psychological injuries from work is greater in the railroad industry than in many others. We have represented train crews who witnessed crossing accidents who could no longer do their jobs because of the emotional affect of thinking you kill someone with your locomotive. We recently handled such a case in the Suffolk Circuit Court in Suffolk, Virginia (VA). Sadly, the juries in Virginia (VA) and elsewhere are often suspicious of psychological injury cases, especially when the injured person does not have lots of physical injury also. Post traumatic stress disorder is a real problem that is invisible, but can have devastating effects on railroaders’ careers. CSX’s response to such injury is often to make the train crew return to work immediately with minimal counseling or medical help. If you or a loved on gets PTSD from an accident, please seek psychiatric help as soon as possible.