Law Offices of Bodey & Bodey, PLLC | Michael Bodey
Really, the call of the question, as I see it is, should individuals when they happen upon an injured person attempt to render aid in the face of incurring liability? More succinctly stated, can a rescuer incur liability when rescuing? After reading the question, it rang clear to me that really what we are talking about here is the Good Samaritan law, versus the rescue doctrine in Washington State. The Good Samaritan law allows for immunity for acts protecting those who chose to serve and tend to others who are injured or ill. Quite frankly, these types of laws are intended to reduce bystander hesitation to assist, for fear of being sued or prosecuted for unintentional injury or wrongful death. Remember that these Good Samaritan laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, and will also very in relation to other legal principles. That being said, a general review of the rescue doctrine would be required here. Tortfeasor's, or individual who create circumstances that cause injuries to another, are liable not only for the harm caused to the victim, but also to the harm caused to any person injured in an effort to rescue said victim. Again, the subtleties surrounding this theory or type of law are going to deviate, to a degree, depending on the jurisdiction for which you find yourself. For example, one states rule on this matter may differ from another states rule. In addition, if you find yourself at the federal level, it might be stated that if a tortfeasor creates a circumstance that places the tort victim in danger, the tortfeasor is liable for not only the harm caused to the victim, but also the harm caused to any person injured in an effort to rescue the victim. This doctrine was originally created in case law by Wagner v. International Railway in the years 1926. Justice Cardozo stated, "the emergency begets the man. The wrongdoer may not have foreseen the timing of a deliverer. He is accountable, as if he had." Nevertheless, that still does not answer the question, "can the rescuer acquire liability during the rescue?" Although rare, this would require an extreme and or gross deviation of some act by a rescuer, which further caused injury to the original injured party. What that circumstance and or fact pattern is, eludes my imagination. One would have to peer into a crystal ball and examine it factually. Because I do not possess a crystal ball which would allow me to do that it is a tough question to answer. That being said, I believe it would be laborious to argue that a rescuer had or could sustain liability if that same rescuer recognized an imminent peril to a third party, caused by the defendant, and that rescuer attempted to exercise reasonable care in effectuating the rescue. However, that is not to say that it is impossible for a rescuer not to incur liability under a given circumstance. The question will likely revolve around what, "is the exercise of reasonable care," when effectuating a rescue. I believe, a defendant would be hard-pressed to blame the rescuer as being partially liable. Further, and call me a hopeless romantic, but I believe in juries and their ability to see through such arguments. If you are taking one to a hospital in order to rescue them because, "someone else" originally injured them, then can you incur liability on the way to the hospital? For the sake of argument, let us assume that you were driving a vehicle. The question would really be, was your driving while going to the hospital, somehow unreasonable, or not what a reasonable person/rescuer would have done under the same or similar circumstances. If you can answer the question in the affirmative, then yes, the rescuer could possibly obtain or incur some liability. I have to reiterate that an examination of the circumstances would be paramount here. I believe from a public policy standpoint that the laws in the state of Washington, would rather produce rescuers and retreat or attempt to hinder the creation of new defendants, i.e. that being the rescuer. One such line of reasoning would be that any other intent would place a chilling effect on the average citizen rendering assistance to another in a recognized peril. In short, laws and the state of Washington would rather produce rescuers, who render aid to persons in danger, rather than bystanders who could have helped, but chose not to for fear of legal action.
Answer Applies to: Washington
AyerHoffman, LLP | David C. Ayer
The answer to your question is not as simple as you may expect. Many states have "good Samaritan" laws which protect persons assisting injured people from liability claims arising from inadvertent injuries caused during their attempt to assist. Example: If you pull someone by the arm from a burning car, but dislocate the arm in the process, so long as the act of pulling them by the arm was reasonable,you will not be liable for the additional injury. Many states also follow the Rescue Doctrine. If you begin to rescue someone in peril, and the imperiled person relies on your rescue attempt, you must make a reasonable effort to complete the rescue. Example: If you attempt to rescue a swimmer caught in a riptide and the swimmer stops swimming to allow you to tow them back to safety, you will be liable if you change your mind and let go and they drown. Understand, under most circumstances, you have no legal duty to rescue someone in peril unless you caused them to be in peril or have some legally recognized duty to the person (parent to child, for example). Finally, if you pick up an injured person to transport them to a hospital, you have a duty to take care in the process. If you place the person in your car, drive negligently, and cause an accident, you would be liable for any additional physical injuries to the rescued person, for any exacerbation of existing physical injuries, and for any other injuries the person suffers proximately caused by your negligence.
Answer Applies to: Massachusetts
David F. Stoddard | David F. Stoddard
You do not assume any responsibility for their medical bill just because you transport them. You are not responsible for the injury itself just because you transport them. If you cause an accident along the way, and further injure them, you would be responsible for this, just as you would be if you caused an accident injuring a passenger in another car..
Answer Applies to: South Carolina
Bernard Huff, Attorney/Mediator | Bernard Huff
If one is negligent in his/her transport of an injured person to a hospital or another location and aggravates an injury, that person may be liable. If at all possible, it may be wise to call the appropriate medical authority to move an injured person.
Answer Applies to: Indiana
R. D. Kelly Law Firm, P.L.L.C. | Robert Kelly
RCW 4.24.300 releases emergency caregivers from liability when the victim is negligently injured by the caregiver in the course of rendering emergency transportation or care. This statute may have been designed by the Legislature in response to the concern that the threat of litigation would otherwise discourage citizens from offering emergency aid to others. The statute shows a clear public policy valuing a very limited class of good Samaritans who render emergency care or transportation.
Answer Applies to: Washington
Law Office of Mark P. Miller | Mark Miller
There's the "Good Samaritan" Act, but that doesn't necessarily mean that the victim won't sue you if something goes wrong. Whether they can prevail is a different story. If you're in a city that has ambulance service you'd probably be better calling 911 and requesting an ambulance, since they also can provide medical help.
Answer Applies to: Colorado
Dwyer, Black & Lyle, LLP | Kevin Habberfield
Of course you can take them to the hospital without the assumption of any legal liability unless you do so in such a reckless manner that you actually cause them more injuries. By reckless, I mean extreme recklessness, not negligence. Think of firing a wounded person out of a cannon towards a hospital, or something crazy like that, when you could simply drive them. The law wants people to do this sort of thing and has made a policy decision not to subject those who try to help to liability. Not only that, even if the law was different, I'd do it anyway simply because it's the right thing to do. Also, in some professions people are required to render aid when possible. It just makes sense. Keep helping out, someday you may be the one who needs help.
Answer Applies to: New York
The Law Office of Stephen R. Chesley, LLC | Stephen R. Chesley
Generally speaking no. If you are a good Samaritan and are assisting another person, you would not be liable. It is unclear of why you are asking this question, if you come to assist someone and do not further his injury, you are acting in the capacity of a good Samaritan.
Answer Applies to: New York
Oliver Law Office | Jami Oliver
Ohio has a good Samaritan law. That means that you can help a person who is in need of help, including taking them to a hospital, and not be legally liable. However, if you begin to help someone so that others turn away because they assume you are helping, and you fail to follow through causing the person to suffer injury, then you could still be liable. The basic question you are asking, however, is covered by the good Samaritan laws.
Answer Applies to: Ohio
Law Office of Mark J. Leonardo | Mark Leonardo
California, like many states, has a good Samaritan law. No person who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders emergency care at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission. The scene of an emergency shall not include emergency departments and other places where medical care is usually offered. But see this article that discusses a recent case that somewhat holds to the contrary about moving an injured person. Whether taking someone to the hospital falls within what they are talking about in the article is for you to decide.
Answer Applies to: California