The internet loves an everyday hero story.

Mystery hero who made daring fire rescue meets the man he saved. Quick-thinking bus driver saves unconscious motorist. Hero teen struck by truck still pulls man to safety.

While we all may love a hero, what does the law say about when you should help and when you shouldn’t?

Generally speaking, the average person owes no duty to help or rescue someone in distress.

You’re speeding along the freeway and don’t want to interrupt your podcast to make a 911 call to report the man trying to escape his burning car on the side of the road? No worries, you can’t be sued (but you are one morally bankrupt S.O.B.).

So when would you have a duty to rescue someone?

  • If you created the peril. If you injure someone or place her in a position of danger, you may be liable for failing to help her out.
  • You begin to undertake a rescue. Even if you have no duty to rescue someone, if you decide to step up and be the hero, you are on the hook to complete the mission. For example, you’re at the beach and notice someone is drowning. You dive into the water in an attempt to rescue the swimmer. No one else jumps in to save the guy, because looks like you’ve got it under control. You’re not a great swimmer and can’t reach the swimmer. He drowns. Once you decide to be Superman, you have an obligation to complete the mission.
  • There is a special relationship. If you have a special relationship with the victim, like parent-child or teacher-student, you are responsible for them.

If you do decide to help, be careful. If you don’t know what to do, don’t assume responsibility for taking care of the injured person. You could make the situation worse. For example, if you are not CPR certified, don’t attempt CPR based on what you have seen on Grey’s Anatomy. You’re still a hero even if all you do is call 9-1-1.

Disclaimer: This website is made available for educational purposes only as well as to give general information and a general understanding of the law, not to provide specific legal advice. By using this website you understand that there is no attorney client relationship between you and the publisher. The website should not be used as a substitute for competent legal advice from a licensed professional attorney in your state.

Copyright © 2018 by Siobhán Fitzpatrick Kratovil. All Rights Reserved.