top of page

No Fee Unless You

Asserting the Rescue Doctrine After an Accident

In California, the law provides a certain level of protection (in the form of a cause of action) for an individual who is injured while attempting to save, rescue or assist another individual who was injured in a car accident, trucking crash, or motorcycle collision due to the negligence of another. Of course, the rescue doctrine is not limited to vehicle accidents, but extends into any situation where someone is injured due to someone else’s negligence. For example, Jim negligently causes a motorcycle accident when his big rig struck Scott’s motorcycle, causing Scott to be hurled into a nearby river. Susan, a passerby, observes the crash and Scott’s pending peril, so she leaps into the river and attempts to rescue Scott from drowning. While she is dragging Scott to safety, his motorcycle explodes and Susan breaks her ankle from being knocked down by the explosion. Susan then requires surgery and physical therapy rehabilitation. Under the rescue doctrine, Susan is able to pursue a claim against Jim because she was injured rescuing someone who was placed in danger because of Jim’s negligence. Historically, if Susan was negligent in her rescue of Scott and that negligence, even minimal negligence, contributed to her injury, she would be unable to recover anything from the negligent Jim because contributory negligence was a complete bar to her recovery. Now, because California follows the more fair comparative fault rules, Susan would still be able to recover from Jim for her injuries (see Comparative Negligence vs. Contributory Negligence – What’s the Difference?) if she proves her claim by demonstrating all of the following: 1. That there was, or a reasonable person would have perceived that there was, an emergency situation in which someone was in actual or apparent danger of immediate injury; 2. That [the emergency/a danger to [name of plaintiff]] was created by [name of defendant]’s negligence; and 3. That [name of plaintiff] was harmed while attempting to rescue the person in danger. Jim’s only response to her claim would be to show that for Susan “the [rescue] doctrine does not apply…[because she] acted rashly or recklessly in attempting the rescue.” (see California Jury Instructions 453) It is the defendant who has the burden of proving that the injured rescuer acted with rash or reckless conduct in order to prevent her recovery against him. Contact our personal injury lawyer if you have been involved in a personal injury accident due to the negligence of someone else.

Recent Posts

See All

Uninsured and Underinsured Motorist Coverage

Obtaining Uninsured/Underinsured (UM/UIM) motorist coverage is very important, especially in California where the minimum amount of liability insurance required to be carried by drivers is only $15,00

Liability for Driver When Owner is a Passenger

Subject to two very specific exceptions, where the owner of a vehicle allows someone else to drive that vehicle and the owner suffers personal injuries when the driver causes an accident, the owner ca

Owner’s Liability When Someone Else is Driving

There is a common misconception that you cannot be pursued for damages for someone else’s personal injuries if you merely loaned your vehicle to your friend and your friend negligently injured someon


bottom of page