Protection for Rescue Heroes
In Australia the law generally encourages people to act in ways that benefit society as a whole.
Most people would go to the aid of an accident victim or try to rescue someone in difficulties if they were physically able to do so. However, while people are obliged to act reasonably, they are not necessarily obliged to protect others from every possible harm.
There are many cases of rescuers being injured or even killed.
At common law, a duty of care may be owed to rescuers if a person negligently puts another in peril and the rescuer suffers an injury while going to their assistance. For example, a person who through negligence causes a road accident in which rescuers are injured may face a claim for damages by a person injured going to the accident victim’s aid.
Further, a duty of care may be owed to the rescuer even if the defendant owes no duty to the person in peril and the person imperilled is contributorily negligent.
Other situations in which a duty may be owed to a rescuer include when a person apparently in peril was not actually in danger, if the rescuer reasonably believed him or her to be so, or if the rescuer was a professional employed to perform rescues.
In cases involving rescuers, regard must still be given to the relationship between breach of duty and causation, and the application of various statutory defences applicable where the injury or loss results from an "obvious risk".
At common law, there is no general duty for a person to rescue another who is in danger or to come to the aid of another. However, there may be certain relationships which do give rise to a duty of care in such circumstances – for example employer/employee, carrier/passenger and boat owner/passenger.
In most jurisdictions, there are statutory provisions protecting good Samaritans and rescuers from liability.
However, there are limits to that protection if, for example, the volunteer consumed alcohol or recreational drugs which impaired his or her ability to exercise reasonable care and skill coming to the person’s aid, or if the volunteer’s' intentional or negligent act caused the injury (or risk of injury) to the person in need of assistance.
For futher information, please contact us via our "Ask Us a Question" feature or call 1800 681 211 to speak to one of our expert personal injury lawyers to investigate the prospects of bringing a successful claim.
We act in all of these matters on a 'no win/no fee' basis which means that you do not pay for our time, effort or expertise unless you bring a successful claim.