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Protecting Good Samaritans To Encourage Response To Emergencies

When some people see another person in an emergency situation, their first reaction is to spring into action and render whatever aid they can at the moment. If the person in the emergency is conscious, in many cases they may offer their thanks for the assistance. However, in some cases, the rescued person may sue the rescuer for damages related to the rescue, claiming, for example, that the rescue caused more injury because it was not done right. The thought of being sued after a rescue can stifle good Samaritan efforts by others in the community, and therefore, the law tries to encourage people to keep helping by passing good Samaritan laws.

Good Samaritan Law

In Florida, there is no legal duty to rescue someone in an emergency situation. However, Florida’s Good Samaritan Act offers protection from civil liability for any person who freely, and in good faith, provides emergency care or treatment under certain circumstances:

  • In direct response to public health emergency;
  • In response to a state of emergency; and
  • At the scene of an emergency in a place lacking proper medical equipment.

The first two situations may involve natural disasters or similar situations involving legally or publicly announced dangers.

The law’s protection only applies if the victim of the emergency does not protest or decline the assistance offered. If the rescuer pulls a person from rubble in an effort to save the person, but in doing so acts against the injured person’s wishes, he may be liable for any additional damages the rescue causes. Furthermore, the protection offered under this law is for doing or failing to do something during the rescue as long as the rescuer is acting as an ordinarily prudent person would act in the same circumstances. Therefore, if the rescuer is negligent in executing the rescue, he may be liable for damages.

The Rescue Doctrine

In a slight twist to the liability posed by emergency rescues, there are some cases in which the rescuer may sue another person for injuries the rescuer sustains in the course of carrying out a rescue. Sometimes this may be a person who causes an emergency while trying to commit suicide. Under the “rescue doctrine,” a Florida court may hold a person liable for a rescuer’s injuries if the person’s negligent actions cause the emergency or make it worse. The person creating the emergency would be liable to the victim for any injuries caused, and the law simply extends this liability to cover a rescuer. In order to recover under the rescue doctrine, the plaintiff rescuer must show that:

  • The person causing the emergency was negligent;
  • As a result of the person’s negligence, the victim rescued was in imminent danger; and
  • The rescuer acted reasonably in carrying out the rescue under the circumstances.

It is not possible to know what the outcome of any rescue will be, but since it is always possible to cause injury to the victim in an attempted rescue, it is important to be careful if you choose to offer assistance in an emergency. If you do not feel capable of physically helping in an emergency, you can always call emergency services.

Contact a Fort Lauderdale Personal Injury Attorney

If you have been injured in an automobile accident or as a result of another person’s negligence, you need an experienced personal injury attorney to help you fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact an experienced Fort Lauderdale personal injury attorney at Boone & Davis for a consultation.

Boone & Davis, Attorneys at Law is located in Fort Lauderdale, Florida and serves clients in and around Hollywood, Fort Lauderdale, Dania, Pompano Beach, Deerfield Beach and Broward County.

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