Rescue Doctrine Definition and Legal Meaning

On this page, you'll find the legal definition and meaning of Rescue Doctrine, written in plain English, along with examples of how it is used.

What is Rescue Doctrine?

(n) Doctrine of rescue holds the wrongdoer who was instrumental to the damages or injury occurred to a property or person, as responsible for subsequent loss, damages or injury occurred to the persons and items used for rescue operations connected with the first incident

History and Meaning of Rescue Doctrine

The rescue doctrine is a legal principle that holds a wrongdoer responsible for harm caused to anyone who comes to the aid of a victim. The concept behind the doctrine is that someone who is responsible for a dangerous situation should not benefit from the heroic efforts of others who attempt to alleviate the danger. Thus, the doctrine allows the rescuer to recover damages from the wrongdoer for injuries or harm suffered while attempting to save the victim.

The rescue doctrine has its roots in the common law of torts, which is a body of law that governs civil wrongs such as negligence and intentional misconduct. The doctrine was first articulated in a 1914 case called Wagner v. International Railway Company, in which the courts held that a person who negligently caused a train accident was responsible for the injuries suffered by rescuers who were injured while attempting to help the victims.

Examples of Rescue Doctrine

  1. A driver who causes a car accident and then flees the scene, leaving the injured victim stranded, may be held liable for any additional injuries suffered by the victim's rescuers.

  2. A property owner who fails to repair a dangerous condition on their property may be held responsible for injuries suffered by anyone who attempts to rescue another person who is injured as a result of the condition.

  3. A swimmer who recklessly dives into shallow water and suffers a serious injury may be held responsible for any injuries suffered by a bystander who attempts to rescue them.

Legal Terms Similar to Rescue Doctrine

  1. Good Samaritan law – This is a law that provides legal protection to individuals who give reasonable assistance to those who are, or whom they reasonably believe to be, injured, ill, in peril, or otherwise incapacitated.

  2. Duty to rescue – This refers to the legal duty of a person to take reasonable measures to assist someone who is in danger, even if the person did not cause the danger.

  3. Contributory negligence – This is a legal doctrine that may be invoked when a person's own negligence contributes to their injury or harm. In some jurisdictions, it may be used to bar a plaintiff from recovering damages if their own negligence contributed to the injury.