October 29, 2014- Richmond, Va.
A firefighter injured his hand while extinguishing a fire at an apartment in northern Henrico County.
The firefighter has been removed from duty and has sought medical attention for the injury. It is unknown when the firefighter will be fit to return to full duty.
The fire occurred at the 1500 block of Presidential Driver, near East Parham Road around 3:20 PM. No one was in the apartment at the time and the fire did not spread to the rest of the complex. The cause of the fire is still under investigation.
Firefighters risk their lives on a daily basis to protect the public. The Virginia Workers’ Compensation Act provides specific protections for these brave men and women who are particularly vulnerable to workplace injuries. Absent a misconduct defense, when a public safety officer’s injury occurs during the course of employment, that injury is compensable under the act.
While it is not the case here, firefighters are even entitled to workers’ compensation benefits if they are injured while undertaking firefighting duties normally associated with their position in an off-duty capacity. Furthermore, firefighters are afforded legal presumptions to help them prove their claim for hypertension, heart disease, certain cancers and respiratory diseases.
Firefighters can also claim damages for personal injury. Generally, when a victim assumes the risk of injury they cannot recover damages. As a matter of law, a firefighter assumes the risk of getting injured while putting out fires.
However, under Virginia law, no one can assume the risk of an injury resulting from “willful and wanton conduct.” Conduct is considered to be willful and wanton when a person behaves so recklessly that they are consciously disregarding the safety of others.
So while a firefighter assumes the risk of battling an unintentional blaze, an arsonist can be held fully responsible for injuries resulting from their crime.