It's good to be concerned about your fellow humans, but what happens when you get injured in the process of trying to save someone who has put himself or herself in danger? In that case, something called the Rescue Doctrine may help. Here's what you should know.

It's all about negligence.

At the heart of most personal injury lawsuits are negligence and predictability. Negligence occurs when somebody fails to behave in a reasonable way and, predictably, someone gets hurt.

The Rescue Doctrine essentially says that unreasonable behavior that puts someone in danger invites rescue. That means that if someone acts foolishly and needs to be rescued because of it, they are essentially asking to be rescued. It's rather foreseeable that someone else may try to rescue them. If that someone else is you, and you get hurt, your injuries are the fault of the person who acted foolishly in the first place.

This doctrine has enjoyed a long and robust history in the law, going all the way back to 1926. It was used as recently as 2011 in a lawsuit stemming from a fiery crash caused by an Ohio woman who was attempting suicide. The two men who rescued her from the flames were themselves permanently injured. Had the woman merely had an accident, instead of purposefully wrecking her car, her actions wouldn't have predictably invited rescue and led to their injury.

There are limitations.

It's important to note that there are some limitations on the rescue doctrine. In order to apply:

  • the danger to the person being rescued has to be something that a reasonable person would recognize

  • the danger has to be immediate (or appear to be immediate)

  • the would-be rescuer has to exercise a reasonable amount of care while attempting the rescue

In other words, if there was no immediate danger, or no real danger at all, the person being rescued isn't responsible for the would-be rescuers attempts to save him or her. Nor is he or she responsible if there's no real connection between the rescuer's injury and his or her actions.

For example, if you see someone splashing about in the middle of a lake and jump to the conclusion that he or she is drowning when it's clear to everyone else that the individual is just playing around with friends, you couldn't recover for any injuries you incur in the process. Similarly, if that person is shouting that he or she is drowning, your attempt to rescue him or her is reasonable if the lake is calm and you're a strong swimmer. If the lake is in the middle of a storm or you're a weak swimmer, jumping in to rescue someone would be an additional act of negligence on your part. You'd probably, rather predictably, end up injured yourself.

For more information on how the Rescue Doctrine might apply to your case, contact an attorney in your area. To learn more, contact someone like Stapleton Law Offices.