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Hearing loss and tinnitus are conditions that affect tens of thousands of active and retired firefighters. While all people naturally lose some measure of hearing over time as a result of old age, firefighters often experience a rapid decrease in hearing due to exposure to sirens over the course of lengthy careers. In addition to hearing loss, many firefighters are also often afflicted with a maddening condition called tinnitus which results in a constant ringing in the ears. Many have felt that hearing loss was simply something that had to be tolerated as a part of the job, but research has shown that siren placement can have a significant impact on the exposure firefighters experience and thus the severity of hearing loss suffered.
For example, recent studies reveal that Class A sirens produce 120 decibels within a 10 foot radius and that most firefighters will experience significant to profound hearing loss as a result of proximity to these sirens. This creates two obvious questions:
1. Is it necessary for public safety that sirens produce 120 decibels of sound?
2. If it is necessary that sirens produce 120 decibels of sound, would strategic siren placement reduce the impact on firefighters riding in emergency vehicles?
Needless to say, if either of these questions can be answered in the negative then many firefighters are suffering from life altering hearing loss and tinnitus unnecessarily and the practice should be altered immediately to protect current and future firefighters from similar fates. This forms the philosophical underpinning of a pending federal class action which seeks damages for tens of thousands of current and former firefighters around the country: the negligent design and/or placement of alarms has either caused or exacerbated hearing loss and tinnitus in current and retired firefighters.
For nearly twenty years the law firm of Bichler & Longo has represented hundreds of active and retired Florida firefighters with hearing loss due to noise exposure. Our success rate with these claims has exceeded 95% and we have obtained important monetary and medical benefits (including hearing aids) for our clients. Due to our success, we were asked to spearhead the search for Florida firefighters who might benefit from participation in this class action.
The pending lawsuit does not seek damages from employers, as would be typical of any workers’ compensation case, and instead seeks damages, as noted above, from siren manufacturers due to negligent design and placement. As a consequence, this lawsuit will have absolutely no negative impact on current or former employers or taxpayers more generally. The lawsuit seeks to hold the manufacturer, which has profited to the tune of tens of millions of dollars, responsible for the human consequences of negligent design and application.