1). The defendant negligently caused a dangerous situation;
2). The person requiring rescue was either in imminent peril OR the rescuer reasonably believed that such peril existed; and
3). The rescuers actions during the peril must not have been reckless.
In one federal case posted in our library (Yurecka v. Zappala ), the Yureckas saw a vehicle overturned on the side of the road and stopped to help its occupants, the Zappalas. The driver of the Zappala vehicle had apparently been driving too fast and had lost control of the vehicle.
The Zappalas were able to crawl out the rear of the window of their overturned vehicle and they returned to the Yureckas’ vehicle for shelter from rain and to await the arrival of emergency vehicles. While waiting, a third vehicle lost control and struck Mr. Yurecka, who was killed as a result.
The Yureckas brought suit against the driver of the Zappala vehicle, alleging that it was the negligence of the driver in the first accident which prompted the Yureckas to come to their rescue, putting Mr. Yurecka in harm’s way. The Zappalas conceded, for purposes of the matter at issue in the opinion, that the driver of the Zappala vehicle was legally careless and responsible for the first accident. However, Zappalas argued that there was no need for rescue because they weren’t in any imminent peril at the time of the accident.
The Court ruled in favor of the Yureckas, noting that the Zappalas were at risk for shock and other latent injuries and that therefore the Yureckas may have reasonably believed there existed ongoing and imminent peril.
Other circumstances in which the rescue doctrine may be applied may include a first responder (a policeman, for example) who is injured while en route to an accident scene; a fireman who goes into a burning building to rescue occupants; or the EMT who is injured while providing emergency assistance at the scene of an accident.
The point of the rescue doctrine is to provide favored status to those who would risk personal danger to assist others in danger. The rescue doctrine will not help someone who recklessly assumes risk but it is available to help the men and women who help others even when the situation is not perfectly safe.
Injuries to a policeman, EMT, fireman or a good samaritan require a specialized review by a lawyer who not only knows the general law of personal injury but who also knows about the special rules that apply to rescuers. If you’ve been injured as a result of having tried to help someone in need, you need a thorough legal analysis of your rights. Talk to your Pennsylvania injury lawyer about the rescue doctrine.
For more information on car accidents, visit our car accident page or take advantage of our offer to give you a free book on car accidents, “The Ultimate Guide to Car Accident Cases in Pennsylvania: A Roadmap to Justice.” For more information on other injuries, review our injury site where we offer free information on motorcycle accidents , medical malpractice , dog bites , premises liability and other injury types . We are Erie injury lawyers who believe in providing free information to the public about injuries and the lawsuits that sometimes result from them. To schedule a free consultation with one of our experienced Erie lawyers , call today toll free at 814-833-7100 or locally at 814-833-7100