Can You Sue If Someone Injures You during a Rescue?
When someone is involved in an accident or other emergency situation, most would say they would be grateful for assistance from bystanders or other third parties. Sometimes, just the shock of an experience can provoke a physical response, and certainly an injury can threaten a person’s life and inhibit his/her ability to get medical attention. Few would think about suing a rescuer for a personal injury in an emergency situation, but what if this person actually made the injury worse or caused a new injury? Most people are taught to help someone who is hurt or in need, but the law does not require a person to come to another’s aid, which was recently illustrated when a group of teens recorded and laughed as they watched a man drown. While few would condone this behavior, it is not illegal. There is no legal requirement that a person must help someone in danger. Florida does have a Good Samaritan law in place to encourage bystanders to assist those in peril by providing a shield from legal liability for harm they may cause. However, this does not mean a rescuer can disregard common sense and reasonableness and still escape liability. A general discussion of Good Samaritan laws, and when they may not apply, will follow below.
How Good Samaritan Laws Work
As noted above, Good Samaritan laws exist to encourage bystanders to help someone who is in danger or injured, but the primary group the law is geared toward are doctors and other medical professionals who are present during an emergency, but may hesitate to help due to fears of being sued. These individuals have the knowledge and training to save lives, so the more they intervene, the less likely someone will die. Consequently, the law exempts them from civil liability for aid rendered during an emergency situation that causes additional harm. Good Samaritan laws apply for any aid provided by any person, including non-medically trained individuals, offered outside a hospital or health facility where proper medical treatment is unavailable. Further, the victim must consent to the assistance, assuming he/she is conscious and able to communicate.
When You Can Sue
While encouraging bystanders to help in an emergency is important for society, anyone providing assistance must still adhere to certain standards or face potential liability for personal injury. For a non-medically trained person, he/she is expected to exercise due care when offering assistance, and the failure to do so, i.e. exacerbating an injury, may not be protected by Good Samaritan laws. Determining whether someone exercised due care is an objective assessment that examines if the person acted in a manner that a reasonably prudent person would have in a similar situation.
Medical professional are held to the same standard of the reasonably prudent individual when providing aid outside of a medical facility, but for emergency assistance that occurs at a doctor’s office or other medical facility, a person could be liable for an injury if the medical professional acted in reckless disregard of the consequences. Basically, if the medical professional knew or should have known his/her acts would create an unreasonable risk of injury, he/she may be liable for damages. Injuries related to Good Samaritan laws are very fact specific and complicated. An experienced personal injury attorney should be consulted to assess the facts and determine if a legal cause of action exists.
Being injured in an emergency or accident is bad enough, but you should not have to suffer additional harm at the hands of a careless bystander claiming to offer aid. The Miami law firm of Pita, Weber & Del Prado understands how devastating an injury can be, and how quickly an injury can change a life forever. If your injuries were caused by the acts of another, contact the attorneys at Pita Weber Del Prado for a free consultation.