When Failing to Render Aid can be Considered Negligence
Imagine that you are involved in a car wreck in Riverside or elsewhere in California. The crash was not a result of any negligence or carelessness on your part; rather, the other driver carelessly drove into your lane of travel and hit your vehicle head-on. You yourself are (miraculously) not injured; as you exit your vehicle, to survey the damage, however, you notice the other driver is slumped over the wheel of his car and appears to be unconscious. You notice blood coming from the other driver’s head, but you are in a hurry to get home. Your car is drivable, so you decide to just head home. The other driver’s wounds do not look too bad, you say, as you drive away.
You later learn, however, that the other driver died at the scene of the crash. Now his family members have filed a wrongful death suit against you, claiming that had you contacted emergency medical personnel, he would have survived.
The Duty to Render Aid Following a Crash
In general, a person cannot be considered to be negligent for failing to perform some act absent a specific legal duty to do so. For example, if you observe someone in distress on the street, you do not have any legal obligation to go and attempt to help that person, no matter how perilous his or her situation may appear to be. This general rule, however, has exceptions: if you caused the person to be put in a dangerous situation, have a special relationship with the person in distress (such as a teacher-student relationship), or if there is a recognized legal duty to act, failing to render aid may be actionable. It is doubtful the duty would arise under the facts given.
California, like many other states, has codified a driver’s responsibility to stop at the scene of a crash, identify him- or herself to the other motorist involved, and render aid to a motorist who is in need of medical attention and/or summon emergency medical assistance. The safest way to proceed is to call for emergency personnel to respond immediately.
Does Failing to Render Aid Mean I am Responsible for the Person’s Expenses and Losses?
The simple answer is “no.” The law exists to encourage people to act reasonably to help out if they can and if they are capable. Analysis of any given situation can have many complex considerations and the injured party would still need to be able to show that his or her injuries were brought about in whole or in part because of your unreasonable failure to stop and render aid to even make a claim. Depending on the facts and circumstances of the situation, this will not be an easy burden to meet.
Heiting & Irwin is your Riverside personal injury law firm and is dedicated to helping you and your loved ones recover monetary compensation following an injury accident brought about by another’s carelessness. Contact us by calling (951) 682-6440 or by completing our online contact form.