Washington Case Law Update: Can a Firefighter Who Is Injured at an Accident Scene Recover from Parties That Caused the Accident?

Attorney Profile Case Update Template - Josh

From the Desk of Joshua P. Hayward: In Washington, a person who is injured while rescuing another individual may have a claim against the party whose negligence caused the need for rescue.  But does this rule apply to a professional rescuer, such as a firefighter, who is injured while responding to an accident scene? Read on to find out.

Claims Pointer: In this case arising out of a situation where a firefighter was severely injured while responding to an accident, the Washington Court of Appeals held that the firefighter was unable to recover from the various parties whose negligence had caused the initial accident.  This case serves as a reminder and clarification on the scope of the professional rescuer doctrine.

Loiland v. State et. al., No. 76096-3-I, Washington Court of Appeals Div. I (December 26, 2017)

While driving on I-5 in icy and foggy conditions, Pedro Lopez (“Lopez”) lost control of his pickup truck, spun across four lanes, and ended up in a ditch. Sergeant Johnny Alexander (“Sergeant Alexander”) from the Washington State Patrol (“WSP”) responded to the scene. Sergeant Alexander requested a tow truck and began to prepare a report. While preparing the report, Sergeant Alexander observed four cars pass the scene and nearly lose control. He determined that the lights on his patrol car were distracting drivers and therefore a tow truck on the scene would only make matters worse. Sergeant Alexander canceled the tow and left the scene with Lopez, but failed to turn off the pickup truck’s lights or mark the pickup to indicate that he had responded.

Emergency dispatchers began to receive 9-11 calls regarding the wrecked pickup truck and dispatched fire and rescue engines to the scene. Firefighter Wynne Loiland (“Loiland”) arrived at the scene. After observing that the pickup was unoccupied, Loiland began to mark the pickup with tape. At that time, Mario Perez (“Perez”) who was driving past the scene, spun out, and struck Loiland...

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