As a general rule, people do not have a duty to assist in the rescue efforts of another party in danger. However, if a passerby does decide to assist in rescue efforts, the party who is in need of rescue has a duty of care to the person or people who have decided to help them. As a result, if a rescuer is injured in the course of helping the in-danger party, the party in need of rescue may be held liable for the rescuer’s injuries.
In Florida, this rule broadly applies, meaning that even firefighters who are injured in the course of their employment may be able to seek financial compensation if they sustain injuries caused by a negligent homeowner. However, a recent case out of Kansas tests the limits of the rescue doctrine.
The Facts of the Case
The plaintiff was a police officer who was involved in a high-speed accident while responding to the scene of a single-vehicle accident. Prior to the accident, the plaintiff had received a call that there was an accident on the highway and that several south-bound lanes were blocked as a result. The plaintiff was given the specific location of the accident and told which lanes were blocked.
As the plaintiff responded to the scene, he noticed headlights from about a mile away. He assumed that these belonged to the disabled vehicle. However, the lights actually belonged to another motorist’s vehicle that had pulled over to assist the accident victim. As the officer approached at 104 miles per hour, he did not see the disabled vehicle until it was too late. It was later determined that the operator of the disabled vehicle was intoxicated and had fallen asleep behind the wheel.
The plaintiff police officer filed a personal injury lawsuit against the driver, claiming that the driver created a dangerous situation by driving drunk and falling asleep behind the wheel of the pick-up truck. However, the court hearing the case determined that, under the “firefighter’s rule,” the police officer could not recover compensation for his injuries because he was acting within the scope of his employment at the time of the accident.
As noted above, the firefighter’s rule does not apply with the same force in Florida. Thus, the result of this case may have been different if it were brought in a Florida court.
Have You Been Injured While Attempting to Assist Someone in Danger?
If you or a loved one has recently been injured while attempting to help another person who was in need of assistance, you may be entitled to monetary compensation. As the case above illustrates, the relevant laws are not always clear-cut, and cases are decided on a case-by-case basis. The skilled car accident attorneys at the South Florida law firm of Friedman, Rodman & Frank have decades of experience representing injured Floridians in a wide variety of personal injury cases. Call 877-448-8585 to schedule a free consultation with a dedicated personal injury attorney today.
More Blog Posts:
Florida Appellate Court Invalidates Arbitration Agreement, Rejecting Nursing Home’s Argument, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published March 30, 2017.
State Court of Appeals Invalidates Nursing Home Arbitration Contract, South Florida Personal Injury Lawyers Blog, published April 13, 2017.