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While it may be morally correct to assist one in need, under the common law and written law there is no duty to rescue a stranger, except in a case of maritime distress. There is, however, a duty to give assistance where one is already in a position of responsibility with regard to the needy party, such as a treating physician to a patient, or a parent to a child. The removal of assistance would create liability. For example, disconnecting a life support system or interference with a rescuer (such as an ambulance attendant), or neglect of a child by a parent. The question of "what do I do? Do I just watch a person become injured or die?" may now occur to you. That is not what the law wants to say. Rather, the law says you do not have to act. The reality is that a caring person will probably give what assistance they can, at least that is what most people want to believe.


What the law does say is that if you do something it should be done properly. The word negligence means having done something when it is reasonable to know that the act should be done differently or better. When giving care to an injured person the law wants you to do your best and to treat that person within your training and expertise. So long as you do what is reasonable in the circumstances you will be alright. If you have never helped deliver a baby the law is not going to tell you not to assist. If you are needed and try your hardest and cooperate with others then you have done all you can do. Ask the question "Did I make things better?".


Some persons may have a greater responsibility over an incident than the rescuer or first aider. These could include; police, ambulance attendants, fire fighters, doctors, nurses, a ship's captain, coast guard crew, lifeguards, park staff, and others. Because these persons have been authorized as having some control over a situation due to their responsibilities or skills, they should be obeyed. It may be that the rescuer will be recognized by the person as having greater skill and or equipment to deal with an injured person. Don't be surprised if you are given the freedom to "do your job" by a police officer or other person. A good example of this is where there is a multiple car accident and there are simply not enough ambulance attendants to go around. The ambulance attendants should be treating the most serious injuries and will probably direct other rescuers to either assist them or to take responsibility for another injured person. Do your best, as you could be giving that accident victim the best chance they have. If you know something important that the person in authority does not know SPEAK UP! For example if there are injuries that are not obvious (a loss of consciousness, a drastic change in condition of the injured person) to others.


After an incident it is best to help with any investigation as part of the normal follow up. Reports and investigations are routine and are carried out for the following reasons:

  1. to add to ongoing records so that other occurrences may be prevented (including a coroner's inquest);
  2. to determine if any party was at fault (criminal investigations or civil law suit). Really this means how the accident happened - what caused it. Clearly the rescuer does not cause an accident, the rescuer should make a situation better after the injuries have occurred;
  3. to be able to explain to the injured parties and their insurance companies just what happened;
  4. to explain to the rescuers what was done and how it might be improved upon next time (if there is a next time); and
  5. to protect yourself from a civil law suit.

No matter what investigation or report is made it can be very useful to KEEP YOUR OWN RECORDS. In this way you have your own record of your involvement and your memory of the events. This should be done as soon as possible after the incident while still fresh in your mind. It can be as simple as writing your story on a piece of paper, making an entry in a "first aid log", or filling out a patient report or accident form. It is important to learn from experiences so that they can be prevented.


It may be that a first aider or rescuer may be part of a formal investigation such as a coroner's inquiry/inquest, police investigation, insurance investigation, criminal trial, or civil trial. Here again, your job is to cooperate as best you can and tell the truth. If there is some concern that you may be at fault then you should see a lawyer to find out whether you are the subject of the investigation. It is possible that the rescuer will go through any of the following; questioning by police either uniformed or detectives/inspectors, questioning by ambulance supervisors, questioning by coroners, doctors, nurses, all as part of routine reporting. A lawyer may also want to talk to you and this could be because their client is being charged with a crime, is being sued or is suing someone else, or acts for an insurance company. An insurance company may also have an adjuster or claims investigator to look into the events. If you are required to go to court as a witness you will probably be asked to attend and may also be subpoenaed. Then it is a matter of answering questions to the best of your knowledge. You may be requestioned by a lawyer on the other side of the court case who will try to see if there are any problems with your story.


The foregoing articles are meant for informational purposes only and are not to be taken as legal advice. In the case of any questions, issues or needs arising from the above please contact us at Admin@deacontaws.com, Phone: (705)526-3791 or Fax: (705)526-2688



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