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What Is the Rescue Doctrine and How Can It Affect a Legal Claim?

Published on Jul 29, 2020 at 2:27 pm in Personal Injury.

Main in suit with pen and paper sitting across table

When another person is in life-compromising danger, it’s human nature to want to help them in any way you can. The situation can quickly turn to not only being dangerous for the person you’re trying to save, but for you as well. Thankfully, if you’re injured while trying to save someone in an emergency situation, you are protected by the Rescue Doctrine.

Even though you voluntarily chose to put yourself at risk of injury and attempted to help a person in danger, you can still recover damages thanks to the Rescue Doctrine. In that case, the person responsible for causing the dangerous scenario is liable for your injuries, but you’ll need to prove four specific elements. A Little Rock personal injury lawyer from McMath Woods, P.A. can help you in determining if those four elements apply to your case so you can recover compensation for your injuries.

What Is the Rescue Doctrine?

In the United States, the Rescue Doctrine first came into being in New York after the case Wagner v. International Railway. Back in 1921, train passengers were still allowed to walk in between train cars while the train was moving. A passenger fell through the gap, and Wagner helped the rider. Since Wagner was injured by helping this person, his injuries were at the fault of the negligent rider, and so the Rescue Doctrine was established so people who are injured while helping can recover damages from the negligent party.

In Arkansas, there was a similar case in 1949 that was ruled in favor of the rescuer. The case Mo. Pac. R. R. v. Cunningham ruled in favor of a mother who was badly burned and sustained injuries to her hearing and eyesight after a house fire that was negligently started by her neighbor’s car. She was badly burned while saving her four children from the flames, which is why the Rescue Doctrine applied here.

How Can the Rescue Doctrine Affect a Legal Claim?

To enact the Rescue Doctrine in your case, there are four elements that must be proven. An experienced lawyer will be best at guiding you through the process, but you should still understand those elements for yourself. Here’s what must be proven:

  • The danger was caused by the defendant and their negligence.
  • The plaintiff—which is you—was trying to rescue a person in that dangerous situation.
  • The plaintiff was injured or died while trying to rescue that person.
  • The plaintiff was exercising reasonable care while trying to rescue that person.

This might still be a confusing concept, so let’s look at an example. Say you witness a car accident where one driver is clearly texting and driving and swerves into another car. The car they hit runs off the road and crashes into the guardrail. You pull over to help the victims. While you are trying to pull the victim out of their car, you strain your back. The driver who was texting and driving would be liable for your injuries because they caused the accident in the first place.

Still Have Questions About How the Rescue Doctrine Might Apply to Your Case?

The Rescue Doctrine can be hard to understand, so we understand that you still might have questions about how it might apply to your case. Our experienced Little Rock personal injury lawyer will investigate all aspects of your claim so they can explain how the Rescue Doctrine applies to you and your best legal options moving forward.

At McMath Woods, P.A., we know how badly you want peace of mind, and we know you deserve compensation for your injuries. Holding the party at fault responsible for their actions is the first step in helping you heal. Reach out to our office today so we can discuss your legal options and how the Rescue Doctrine might apply.

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