Are Injured Rescuers Able to Recover in Maryland?

Voluntarily risking one’s own safety to rescue another person or retrieve another person’s property is commendable. But if the rescuer is injured in the process, are they able to recover compensation from negligent parties? In Maryland, the defense of assumption of the risk generally holds that where a person assumes a certain risk, the person cannot later recover because they were injured because of a danger inherent in that risk. In cases of a voluntary rescue under Maryland law, there is an exception to the defense of assumption of the risk, referred to often as the rescue doctrine.

Under the rescue doctrine, a rescuer may be able to recover damages in emergency situations involving imminent peril, where the rescuer acts to save the life or property of another. But whether a rescuer is able to recover generally depends on the particular facts of the case, taking into consideration the exigency and harm involved. The rescuer’s actions must be reasonable under the circumstances, such that a rescuer may not be able to recover who engages in dangerous conduct that is not proportionate to the benefit or where there is a reasonably safe alternative.

In a recent case, the court found the rescue doctrine to be applicable, allowing the injured plaintiff to recover for their injuries. In that case, a taxi driver picked up an intoxicated passenger and his friend. The taxi driver drove to the destination and told the passenger the fare. The intoxicated passenger argued with the driver and grabbed and punched the driver from behind. The plaintiff, who had called a taxi from a nearby home and believed the taxi might have arrived to pick him up walked towards the taxi, heard the driver yelling for help and went to help. The passenger then started punching the plaintiff, causing him to fall down. The intoxicated passenger then got into the taxi, from which the driver had escaped, and hit the plaintiff twice with the car.

The plaintiff filed a negligence claim against the taxi company, arguing that the company knew of attacks by passengers on its drivers but failed to take protective measures. The plaintiff relied on that state’s rescue doctrine, arguing that he was entitled to recover as a rescuer. The case went to trial and the jury found in favor of the plaintiff and awarded him $1.6 million in total damages, finding the taxi company was 45% at fault. The state’s supreme court upheld the decision, finding that the plaintiff sufficiently established that he intended to aid or rescue someone he reasonably believed was in imminent peril, and reasonably in a way that could have reasonably been successful in preventing the peril. Thus, the plaintiff qualified as a rescuer under the rescue doctrine and was entitled to recover.

Contact a Maryland Car Accident Lawyer

Have you been injured in a Maryland car accident? Consulting with an experienced personal injury attorney will allow you to evaluate your options for recovering financial compensation. At Lebowitz & Mzhen, Personal Injury Lawyers, our dedicated Maryland car accident attorneys assist accident victims and their families who have suffered personal injuries, property damage, and other financial losses. Our legal team will work with you to build a strong legal case in order to help you pursue a favorable outcome. Call us to set up a free initial consultation at 1-800-654-1949, or contact us through our website.

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