Laws are created to keep order and protect the public. The court system was created to ensure that everyone follows the rules, and that those who do not are held accountable for their actions. As members of society, we owe each other specific obligations and legal duties under certain circumstances. When these duties exist, they are typically related to the relationship between two parties. It’s important to know your legal duties, especially if you are ever in a situation where you might need to fulfill them.
Get To Know Your Legal Duties
Generally, people are not obligated to come to someone’s rescue if they find themselves in danger, even when the result of not giving aid could be extreme or deadly. For instance, if an adult sees a child playing on railroad tracks and the adult knows that the train is coming, they are under no obligation to rescue the child. However, there are some exceptions to the rule. If any of these apply, then it would be unlawful for a party not to step in and help:
- If the defendant created the danger:If the defendant in a personal injury case was responsible for the situation that put another person in peril, then it is usually their duty to prevent the other party from being injured or harmed.
- If the defendant starts, then stops, helping: If the defendant in a personal injury case begins to help the person but then stops for some reason, then they may be legally obligated to complete the rescue. If they do not, they might be neglecting their duty of care to the other party. Most courts would rule in favor of the defendant if the other party stopped offering help, simply because it would be reasonable care for the rescuer to continue their actions so that the other party is not injured.
- If a special relationship exists: If the defendant has a special relationship with the victim, then they might be obligated to step in. Circumstances like being someone’s employee or teacher would fall under these exceptions.
As you can see, there are quite a few situations in which you would need to know your legal duties to other people in order to make a smart decision about the risk involved.
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Understanding Good Samaritan Laws
There is always a possibility that if someone steps in to rescue, believing that they are doing good, they could still unwittingly cause harm. That mistake could expose them to liability in a personal injury case. The better you know your legal duties and liabilities, the more prepared you will be to choose the right course of action in an emergency.
“Good Samaritan” laws protect people who help rescue someone else from legal prosecution if they are unable to save them or even hurt them while attempting to rescue them. The laws were created to encourage people to offer help when they see someone in danger, instead of looking the other way for fear of accidentally doing harm and being liable for the damages. If someone steps in to rescue another person and hurts them accidentally, they will typically not be held liable unless they did something reckless.
Although these Good Samaritan laws differ from state to state, they generally follow the same legal guidelines. As a bystander, you still have no obligation to step in and help someone in need. With the Good Samaritan laws in place, however, people hopefully won’t hesitate to rescue someone in need.
The only exception to this rule exists in the state of Vermont. Citizens of Vermont are required to help those in need of rescue, or risk being held liable for failing to act.
The Duties to Control and Protect
You do not generally have an obligation to stop someone from harming someone else, but there are some exceptions. If you are the parent of a child who acts recklessly or dangerously, and you are aware of their behavior but do nothing about it, then you may be held responsible for their actions if they cause harm to someone else.
In addition, if someone is in your care, then you might have a duty to keep them safe from injuries. You may have the duty to protect prisoners, guests at an establishment, or even hotel workers. The courts have found that if someone is under your care or residing in your establishment, you may be held liable to help them if they should need it.
Learn More About Your Rights
Now that you know your legal duties, you understand that most people are not obligated to help someone else if they see them in peril. With a few exceptions, the choice to save someone from danger is a moral decision and not a legal one. If you have additional questions about your rights within a personal injury case, then please do not hesitate to contact the experienced legal team at Zirkin and Schmerling Law today.