Rescue Doctrine Law and Legal Definition

The rescue doctrine is a legal rule that provides that if a rescuer is hurt or put in danger or injured in the course of the rescue because of the negligence or intentional wrongdoing of another, the original wrongdoer is liable for the rescuer's injury. The rescue doctrine even applies to situations where the rescuer is attempting to save the negligent person. For example, if a person intervenes to protect another person or a pet from injury by a dog, and the intervenor is injured, the owner of the dog will be held responsible for the injury.

It has been famously noted that "[d]anger invites rescue." (Justice Cardozo in Wagner v. International Ry. Co. (1921), 232 NY 176, 180, 133 NE 437, 437.) Generally, where an actor puts himself or others in danger, it is foreseeable that a person will attempt to rescue those placed in danger. Although the rescuer may be said to have willingly exposed himself to the danger, such act does not eliminate or excuse the culpability created by the actor's negligence.