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Is There a Duty to Assist in an Emergency Situations?

Monday, February 26, 2018By Richard Alexander

The laws of negligence compensate you if you are hurt by another person. But the law is generally silent on your affirmative duty to protect or rescue someone else from injury. Under common law, there is no duty to save someone in a dangerous situation. Some states, including California, have carved out exceptions to this rule that apply in limited situations.

This issue became newsworthy months ago when a group of teenagers in Cocoa, Florida watched a disabled man drown in a pond and did not try to help him. The State Attorney’s Office stated that while the conduct of the teenagers was morally reprehensible, it did not appear to violate any laws. That is because Florida and California, like most states, do not have statutes that require you to intervene on someone else’s behalf when they are in jeopardy. This may seem shocking and even outrageous, but with the exception of certain professionals, such as doctors and firefighters, there is no duty to rescue.

California law imposes duties on its citizens to take action under certain circumstances. California and a few other states, have a “duty to report” law. This law requires citizens to report a crime or dangerous situation if a child younger than 14 years old is involved. California obligates citizens to inform law enforcement of the rape or murder of a child under 14 years of age unless one or both of these exceptions apply: (1) the witness is related to the victim or perpetrator or (2) the witness has a reasonable fear that his safety or his family’s safety will be compromised.

The other statute related to voluntary rescue is designed to protect the rescuer. If the rescuer further harms the victim in the process of offering aid, the “Good Samaritan Law” states that he is not liable for civil damages arising from his actions. The idea is to encourage good Samaritans to intervene without the fear of being sued if something goes wrong. The current law under the California Health and Safety Code protects both medical and nonmedical assistance provided by a bystander.

If a person creates the danger through his own action or inaction, he can be found liable for negligence. Also, if someone acts in a way that is grossly negligent in an emergency situation, he too can be found liable for negligence.

If you or a member of your family was injured in an accident, contact Alexander Law Group, LLC. Our exceptional personal injury lawyers will be sure you get the maximum compensation possible. Call 888.777.1776, or contact us online.

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