The Rescue Doctrine

In Florida, if someone suffers an injury while undertaking a necessary and reasonable rescue effort, they may recover for their injuries from the person whose negligence created the rescue situation. In other words, the law will hold a negligent party at fault for not only the damages caused to the victim, but also to any rescuers as well. This is because it is “foreseeable” that someone could be injured in attempting to rescue an accident victim. In addition, the rescuer is only motivated to act because of the situation created by the at fault party and so therefore the at fault party “caused” the injuries to the rescuer, as well as to the victim.

To prove a claim under the rescue doctrine, you must prove that the defendant was negligent, that the person or property rescued was in imminent peril, and that the rescuer acted reasonably. You must prove all three elements for a successful claim under the rescue doctrine. Many rescue doctrine cases will depend on whether there was imminent peril and whether the rescuer acted reasonably. In the case of Adair v. The Island Club, 225 So.2d 541 (Fla. 2nd DCA 1969), a plaintiff, who had already made a pool area safe, could not recover for his injuries resulting from moving a dislodged chlorine tank because no one was still in imminent peril.

Also, a rescuer’s actions in the case of Perotta v. TriState Insurance, 317 So.2d 104 (Fla. 3d DCA 1975), were found unreasonable because he dove into a shallow end of a pool to rescue a drowning child. The Court ruled that the Plaintiff could not recover for his injuries from hitting the bottom of the pool because it was unreasonable to dive into the shallow end. The rescue doctrine will not apply to policeman and firemen because rescues fall within the scope of their professional responsibilities.