In these situations, one of the noble and more admirable things to do would be to offer help. However, there is one thing that any potential rescuer needs to know. Even in an emergency situation like a traffic accident or other mishap, both you as a rescuer and the victims in need of help are entitled to certain legal rights that leave BOTH of you open to a lawsuit, depending on the circumstances. Let’s look at both of these situations now to see what a personal injury lawyer in St. Petersburg can do for each person in these specific events.
Negligence By The Rescuer
As of 2009, Florida is one of 10 states in the country that has certain provisions in the law that act as a “duty to rescue.” This does NOT mean that when you see someone in trouble, you are legally required to help under every circumstance. However, there are some situations, such as someone in the midst of a drug overdose, or even spotting a dog trapped in a vehicle with closed windows, where more legal protection is extended to the people that choose to act. The “PAWS” act, as it is called, allows bystanders to smash the window of a car if it is clear that an animal inside the car is suffering from suffocation or heat. It is illegal in Florida for pet owners to subject their dogs to these oven-like situations, so the PAWS act makes it possible for responsible animal lovers to act without fear of legal reprisal.
However, in many other instances, only doctors and nurses receive full legal protection when it comes to helping others. A “good Samaritan act” by a professional like a doctor or nurse means that these highly trained people don’t have to worry about being sued if they attempt to help a person in trouble at the scene of an accident.
Otherwise, for everyone else, there is a possibility that if you attempt to help someone and, in the process cause more injuries to the victims, you can be sued by those victims for your negligence. For example, trying to pull someone out of car wreckage that fails to account for twisted, shrapnel metal causing new cuts and possibly even further infections in a victim may fall under an act of negligence. A personal injury lawyer can make a case in this situation for the victim suing the rescuer for negligence.
Negligence By The Victim
The flipside of this coin, however is that it’s not just victims of an accident the right to enact a negligence lawsuit. People attempting to rescue an accident victim may also be able to file a civil lawsuit against the victim. The theory here is that if a victim was acting in a negligent manner and that resulted in the need for rescue by someone else, the rescuer may sue for damage if he or she is injured during the rescue attempt.
For example, in March of 2009, two men, Mark Kinkaid and David Kelly found a Hummer that had gone off the road and was in flames in an embankment. The two men heard a woman, Theresa Tanner, screaming for help inside. They proceeded to rescue the woman, but suffered permanent damage to their constitutions due to smoke inhalation. Later, the men found out that Theresa Tanner was, in fact, attempting suicide that day, and her attempt had gone badly. They had suffered permanent injuries in an attempt to get someone out of a botched suicide attempt.
They later sued Theresa Tanner for $25000 each for damages incurred as a result of that failed rescue attempt. There are other instances, such as skiers in need of rescue when stray from designated areas despite repeated warnings not to do so, where lawsuits and other fines are levied since it is clear in these cases that no rescue would have been required if people had behaved a bit more responsibly.
Circumstances Always Matter
A personal injury case is always down to the specifics of the event. The more accurate a depiction of the sequence of events you have, the better, especially if it is backed up by credible eye witness accounts, or, better yet, video footage documenting things. If you think the effort you put into a rescue has cost you more than it should, or that someone attempting to rescue you did more harm than good, talk to an experienced accident lawyer and start building your personal injury case..