September 2, 2015- Richmond, VA
Mary Keck, a graduate student at Virginia Commonwealth University, suffered minor burns on her chest and feet during a daring rescue attempt yesterday afternoon.
Keck was driving on I-95 when she noticed a bus going up in flames. Keck immediately pulled over and ran to the side of the bus to see whether anyone was trapped inside. Before she could confirm, Beck was driven back after a small explosion sent debris in her direction.
Fortunately, the three passengers and drivers who had been aboard the GRTC Care bus were able to evacuate the bus without injury before the bus became completely engulfed in flames. The Richmond Times-Dispatch reports that around 3:00 PM, the bus driver smelled smoke, which prompted him to call 911 before pulling the bus over north of the Hermitage and Robin Hood road intersection.
By the time Keck arrived on the scene, the driver and passengers had already evacuated to safety.
According to the Richmond Times-Dispatch, the flames first appeared in of the engine compartment of the bus and the cause of the fire is believed to be a mechanical problem and. The Richmond Fire Department does not suspect arson at this time.
Virginia, like many states, seeks to protect people like Keck who act to help others during an emergency. Typically, those who contribute to their own injury in any way cannot collect civil damages. This is because Virginia follows the “pure contributory negligence rule,” where a negligent party must be 100 percent at fault in order to be held liable for injuring another.
However, pure contributory negligence rule is subject to limitation when a person exposes themselves to danger for the purpose of rescuing another from peril. This limitation, known as the “rescue doctrine,” is based on the idea that it is commendable to save another from injury or death. As such, the law will not preclude a rescuer like Keck from recovering for her own injury, even if the rescuer voluntarily exposed herself to danger.
Generally speaking, the rescue doctrine provides that a rescuer is justified in exposing herself to danger, in a manner that would deprive her of a recovery for her injuries under other circumstances, if the peril threatening the victim was imminent and real, not merely imaginary or speculative, and the rescuer did not rashly or recklessly disregarded all consideration for her own safety.
Virginians are also protected when they unintentionally cause damage or injury while attempting to help others during an emergency. Under the Virginia Good Samaritan law, those helping ill or injured people at the scene of an accident, fire, or any life-threatening emergency, or en route to any hospital or medical facility or doctor’s office, will not be held civilly liable for damage resulting from the rendering of such care or assistance.
It is important to note that Good Samaritans cannot be compensated for their service and must be acting reasonably and in good faith in order for this exemption to apply.