It is too often that serious and fatal truck accidents are reported in the news and that we learn about deaths and injuries happening to innocent people. However, it is refreshing and enjoyable to report to our readers when such accidents have happy endings and lives are saved.
According to a recent article by Fox 13, a truck driver has been hailed for his heroic acts after a highway collision. A car slammed into a semi-truck and immediately exploded into flames. The truck driver ran from his truck to the car with a fire extinguisher and along with several witnesses pulled a grandmother and her one-year-old granddaughter to safety. As a result of helping one another, everyone survived this accident.
While in this accident it is unclear who was at fault, it is nevertheless admirable that an individual went into danger to save others. However, this is also a good opportunity to discuss with our readers a legal theory known as “duty of care” under tort law. We have often discussed that drivers have a legal duty of care when they get behind the wheel of the car and to drive in a safe manner as to not cause an accident and injury to others. The duty of care is a legal obligation imposed on individuals that requires them to adhere to a standard of reasonable care while performing acts that could foreseeably harm others. In a negligence lawsuit, the plaintiff must show that the defendant had a duty of care that was breached.
However, there are also instances under tort law – the law that covers personal injury lawsuits – where a party has a “duty to rescue.” Generally, a person is under no legal obligation to come to the rescue of others except in certain situations. At these times, a party must come to the rescue of another party, and where failing to do so can be held liable. These instances are where the party is the cause of the peril, has already begun a voluntary undertaking of rescue, or holds a special relationship with the party such as parent-child relationship or property owners. Using the above accident as an example, had the truck driver been the cause of the accident, it would have been his legal duty to save the individuals from the car. Here, the truck driver also voluntarily came to the rescue of these people. The law ordinarily would say that once voluntary rescuers begin to undertake a rescue, under the law he would not be able to quit this rescue. However, this was a situation where there was an explosion where the driver could have easily died by going to their rescue. If this was not such a dangerous situation, had he quit his voluntary rescue, he would be seen as liable to them because a voluntary rescue can prevent others from going to their rescue. Since he would be the source of their safety, he must see through to the rescue to the extent that he has done the best he can to save those in danger without bringing his own life in imminent risk of fatal harm. However, because rescuer does not have to endanger his own life, this truck driver would most likely not be liable had he not been able to successfully save these people.
It is admirable that people go to the aid of others in emergencies, particularly when putting their own lives on the line. However, there are many instances where people have breached a legal duty and can be held liable for negligence. If you have suffered injury due to the fault of another, whether through a car accident, a fall on another’s property, or from a defective product, you may be able to hold that negligent wrongdoer liable through a lawsuit. Our law firm offers free consultations and would be happy to discuss your legal options with you, so call us today.