New York City firefighters are city employees, but do not receive worker’s compensation benefits if they are injured on the job. For this reason, they are not bound by the limitations of Section 11 of the Worker’s Compensation Law, which bars an employee from suing his or her employer. Thus, if the City of New York violates its obligations to a firefighter, he or she may have a claim against the City of New York.
Firefighters are often uncomfortable with the idea of bringing a claim against the city. We at Sullivan Papain Block McGrath & Cannavo are often asked if the city can retaliate against a firefighter who brings a lawsuit. The answer to this question is a resounding “No!”
The City of New York can be a defendant in a number of ways. For instance, it can be a landowner or building owner. And as a landowner or building owner, the city has the same responsibilities that a private owner would have when someone lawfully enters a property.
We often bring cases on behalf of firefighters against the city when it has failed to properly maintain construction sites or buildings, which directly or indirectly cause firefighters to be injured.
Depending on the circumstances, a city entity also may be responsible for the sidewalks and roadways. Despite being given prior written notice of defective conditions on the streets, the city often fails to fix the problems. As a result, firefighters injure themselves jumping off their rigs into broken sidewalks and potholes. The city has a duty to maintain the streets and roadways in a reasonable condition — and not leave them in a state that creates dangers for its firefighters.
The city may also be held liable because of accidents involving motor vehicles! A rig accident is one such example. Another would be where the Transit Authority accident involves a bus. It is also common to see motor vehicle accidents that involve combinations of municipal and private defendants.
Another way the city can become a defendant is if it fails to provide a firefighter with a safe place to work or with the appropriate safety equipment. Injuries at a firehouse or The Rock may occur because the city failed to do all that was necessary to ensure worker safety. In addition, firefighters must be provided the proper bunker gear, gloves and ropes.
If you believe you have a claim against the city, you must understand that there are strict time restrictions on bringing suit. In most cases, a Notice of Claim must be filed within 90 days of the accident and the lawsuit itself must be commenced within one year and 90 days. If you believe that the city might be responsible for your accident, it is imperative that you call us immediately to protect your rights and those of your family.