Survey: What is the most likely type of lawsuit facing the fire service?

I am working on an article for the August edition of Firehouse Magazine on the types of lawsuits that fire and EMS organizations most commonly face.


Over the past 7 months I have been entering every lawsuit and legal proceeding I can find into a database. The database has over 1,000 cases now - and I am barely scratching the surface - but its time to start crunching the numbers.


I thought it would be interesting to take a survey to find out what firefighters, EMTs and paramedics  believe is the most likely type of legal proceeding that fire & EMS organizations face. For that reason - I am looking for your input!


What is the most likely type of legal proceeding facing America's fire and emergency responders? Here's a few ideas - but you are not limited to them:


Hiring discrimination (race, gender, religion, ADA, age, etc in hiring process)

Employment discrimination/harassment (race, gender, religion, ADA, age, etc in current employees)

Negligence - apparatus

Negligence - firefighting operations

Negligence - EMS

Collective bargaining

Employee discipline and discharge

Ethics/conflicts of interest

Discrimination in service delivery



Thank you




Views: 64

Replies to This Discussion


Hiring discrimination #1
Employment discrimination #2

I'd have to echo Tom for 1 & 2, but I believe that apparatus negligence is going to be right up there with too.

Not to be one of those "out of the box" types... but... in my opinion, there are two commonplace issues for fire departments that were not included in your listing. The first deals with fire agencies administering fire prevention, plan review, hazardous materials permitting and other compliance issues that are not what folks would consider traditional fire service concerns. The other focuses on injured firefighters and workers compensation, which sadly enough ends up in some cases putting the fire department against the firefighter.

Terms like AHJ, or authority having jurisdiction implies that as a governmental agency, you, the fire department, are charged with applying and enforcing rules and regulations which of course requires legal interpretation and having to deal with disagreements. Fire agencies are being faced with more and more budget shortfalls forcing folks to do more with less, which means that when there are problems, resources and time to deal with issues are compromised. The bad news is that businesses are now in a position to simply overwhelm the courts and fire departments with lawsuits or the threats of them to force the government into not enforcing the law. I've watched it work locally, and by non-USA companies. Simply hire enough attorneys, and file enough injunctions, or complaints and if your really savy, hire a public relations firm to communicate to the public the desired message. What's amazing is that this tactic really does work well. It's just expensive. I've probably shared too much information on this but you get the point, if money is involved and the fire department stands in the way of profit, prepare to get munched on by sharks.

The other non-mentioned legal issue focuses on workers compensation issues for injured firefighters. What firefighters do not know or understand is that in situations where they are hurt or injured on the job, and any problems occur between the firefighter and his or her employer, it is not the fire department that you are dealing with. Instead, you are dealing with Risk Management professionals, whose job it is to look out for the jurisdiction and ensure that the employee is not being dishonest. This means that everyone is assumed to be guilty of being dishonest and they have to prove themselves as being honest with their claim. In order to accomplish this, the firefighter needs a competent attorney, with experience and a successful track record for handling the legal process. That's the problem Curt, finding a competent attorney... Remember what they call the person who graduates medical school with the highest grades verses the person who barely passes any exams... they are both called doctors... The same applies for attorneys, you never know what you are going to get so... do your homework. Your life may depend on it.



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