Generally, there is no duty to rescue and a person cannot be prosecuted for doing nothing while another person is in peril. However, in some circumstances where there is a special relationship between parties, a person can be held liable for failing to rescue someone in peril.
Some examples of relationships which create a duty to rescue include:
- A carrier owes a duty to render assistance to a passenger in peril,
- A ship to rescue its seamen who have fallen overboard,
- An employer to aid his employees injured in the course of their employment,
- An owner or occupier of premises to aid his invitees,
- A jailer to aid prisoners in his custody,
- A host to aid his guest, and
- A school official to aid his students.
When the duty to rescue arises, a rescuer generally must act with reasonable care. Generally, this means the rescuer does not increase the injury he seeks to alleviate and the rescuer will only be liable for gross or wanton neglect. A rescuer need not endanger himself in conducting the rescue.
The rescue doctrine, which allows rescuers to recover for their own injuries in such circumstances, does not apply where the rescuers are acting pursuant to duty arising from their own creation of the peril.
Whether or not there is a duty to rescue can be a complex legal question. A personal injury attorney can help explain the law and inform you of your rights, as well as help you recover for your injuries or help protect you from liability. Whether you were the victim, the rescuer, or the original tortfeasor, an attorney can help develop your case.