While driving down a rural country road, you see a 7-year old kid yelling to you for help. He is bleeding badly and in need of assistance because he was just involved in a car accident. You are fully able to render aid to his personal injuries and get him to the local hospital within a matter of minutes. You decide not to do so and you keep on driving. The boy unfortunately dies from his injuries. Medical analysis shows that he would have survived if taken to the hospital within an hour of the accident. Are you in any way liable for his death, when you could have prevented it? Under California law, you are not (subject to a few exceptions, of course). Following a car accident, motorcycle accident, trucking accident (i.e., big-rig, 18-wheeler), trip and fall or slip and fall accident, or other personal injury matter, you are not required to render assistance (or otherwise act as the proverbial “Good Samaritan”) to any of the injured parties, even if doing so would put yourself in absolutely no danger and would assure the injured parties survived. Even if the injured party is a child, as in our hypothetical scenario above, one does not have the affirmative to do anything to help him. This rule derives from the common law and was best summarized in the case of Williams v. State of California (1983) where the court held, “A person who has not created a peril is not liable in tort merely for failure to take affirmative action to assist or protect another unless there is some relationship between them which gives rise to a duty to act.” And therein lies the exception. If there is some sort of pre-existing relationship between the would-be rescuer and the personal injury victim, then the law does require the person to render assistance. Examples of a pre-existing relationship would be a father seeing his child in need of aid, a hired bodyguard seeing his client in need of assistance, an on-duty paramedic or police officer observing someone who has been injured in an accident. Notice, in the bodyguard, paramedic and police officer scenarios, these individuals must actually be on duty for the exception to apply. If any one of these individuals is off duty and, for example, witnesses an auto accident with injured persons in need of help, they are under no duty to render any assistance. The court in Camp v. State of California (2010) held that “A police officer, paramedic or other public safety worker is as much entitled to the benefit of this general rule [that one does not have to help another in need] as anyone else.” If you have been injured in an auto accident or are the victim of a dog bite/animal attack or other personal injury accident, contact our personal injury lawyer us today for a free consultation.
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