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The golden rule, duty of care, and negligence

We have been taught from childhood that if we see someone in need, we should make our best efforts to render assistance where and however possible. This stems from our foundation of the golden rule: Treat others as we would like to be treated. However, in tort law, there is no legal requirement that a person must render assistance to another, unless there is a specified legal relationship that provides that that person has a duty of care to the other. These relationships are seen more regularly between doctors and patients, police officers and those in their custody, and guardians and children who are to be protected. However, we find that there is no legal requirement, barring these specified legal relationships, by which a person must dive into a lake to save a drowning person or push a person out of the way of impending danger. But, there is a tenet of duty of care that requires that if a person who has no legal relationship to another begins to render assistance to another, he or she cannot quit that assistance without a compelling reason, either being that it is impossible to continue or the person fears for his or her life, as well.

Duty of Care

Our legal system has been careful in etching out the requirements that we owe each other, and the duty of care that we are obligated to take. We have a duty, for example, to be careful when we operate our vehicles. We have a duty to ensure that the property that we invite people onto has been reasonably secured with any dangerous hazards on the property properly fenced off or the guests being made aware of the impending danger.

House Bill 1436, Rendering Assistance in Certain Circumstances

In a recent bill that was introduced into the Maryland legislature, the legislature is looking to increase the duty of civilians to render assistance in certain circumstances. According to House Bill 1436, an individual must provide reasonable assistance to others who have been seriously and physically injured and/or are under threat of further injury, as long as rendering assistance does not endanger the individual’s self or others. The bill further provides that this situation would arise when an individual knows or has reason to know that a police officer, firefighter, emergency medical services technician or professional, or other individual has experienced a serious physical injury or is at risk of suffering from an impending danger.

What is Reasonable Assistance?

Thebill further outlines what is considered reasonable assistance; any expedient action in obtaining aid or attempting to find aid from another law enforcement officer or emergency response professional and providing assistance directly such as dressing a wound, administering CPR, or transporting the person to a safer location.

Limitations on Liability and Situations of Gross Negligence, Recklessness

If the individual fails to provide direct assistance or refuses to obtain aid from a third party of the injured or threatened individual, then the civilian could incur a civil penalty of $250. However, if an individual provides reasonable assistance that leads to greater injury or damage, the individual is free from liability for civil damages resulting from his or her actions or omissions resulting from rendering assistance. This non-liability does not extend to an individual who was the direct cause of the original physical injury, or in providing assistance he or she does so in a reckless or grossly negligent manner. This would be the case if the individual, for example, hit a police officer with his or her car, and the officer then needed help, or if the individual attempted to perform CPR but did so knowing that his or her technique was incorrect.

Charles County, MD Personal Injury Lawyers that Fight for You

If you or a loved one was injured as a result of another’s violated duty of care, it is important to consult with an experienced personal injury attorney who can guide you through the tort and personal injury legal system. Please call the Law Office of Robert R. Castro at (301) 804-2312 for a confidential consultation.

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