Almost by definition, emergencies like large fires, floods, and hurricanes break down the ordinary course of things. In an emergency people can find themselves well outside their familiar boundaries, placed in situations that are radically unfamiliar and potentially frightening. As a consequence, people facing an emergency can end up doing things that cause harm to themselves or others. Once the emergency is over, someone who was injured by another person’s negligence may have the option of pursuing a personal injury claim.
Taking actions that are reasonable under the circumstances
A personal injury lawsuit needs to put forward a legally sound claim to recover compensation for an injured plaintiff. There are numerous causes of action that might underpin a personal injury lawsuit, with negligence being the most common. Broadly speaking, in a negligence suit the plaintiff’s aim is to show that the defendant breached a legal duty toward the plaintiff, and as a consequence the plaintiff was injured. In an emergency situation there are a number of factors that may determine the applicable parameters for evaluating whether the defendant behaved negligently.
An ordinary person with no special training probably owes others only a duty to avoid causing harm to others by taking actions that are reasonable under the circumstances. The key question here is whether an ordinary person facing a similar situation as the defendant at the time of the alleged negligence would have behaved in a similar way. This standard offers defendants with a strong case if their negligent behavior happened in response to an emergency. For example:
- While fleeing a rapidly moving wild fire the defendant was driving well over the speed limit and struck the plaintiff, who was walking down the middle of the road and obscured by heavy smoke. Under these circumstances, the defendant may have been acting reasonably to be driving quickly.
- After a major car accident the defendant pushed the plaintiff to the ground to get him away from a burning car.
Negligence of professionals
The parameters of negligence can shift in some situations if the defendant has specialized training or is acting a professional capacity. Licensed professionals, like doctors, and members of the first responder community typically fall under specialized laws that generally make it more difficult to sue them for personal injuries that are caused during emergencies. For example, doctors, emergency medical staff (such as ambulance crews), and paramedics are shielded from suits based on ordinary negligence for injuries they cause while providing emergency assistance.
A professional may nonetheless still be held liable for an injury if the professional acted recklessly—that is, without regard to the injured person’s safety. For example, a doctor arrives on the scene of an accident and renders emergency assistance to a seriously injured person. In the course of providing care, the doctor ignores basic principles of first aid and roughly moves the person, making the injuries substantially worse.
Someone who has been injured in an emergency situation should speak to a personal injury attorney to better understand the available legal options. For more than 45 years the law firm of Greenman Goldberg Raby Martinez has represented Las Vegas clients in personal injury cases. For a free attorney consultation about your case call 702-388-4476 or send us a request through our site.