In March 2009, two friends were driving on Route 34 in Marion County when they saw smoke rising from the wooded area below the highway. A bumper, with headlights still attached, sat in the road. The men stopped their cars and quickly decided to attempt a rescue. They broke down a barbed wire fence and slid down the embankment to where a red 2008 Hummer with the license plate 5POILED was engulfed in flames. From inside, they heard a woman’s screams. They broke the car’s window, but were unable to remove her so they had to pry the door open.
The flames were already burning the woman, melting her flesh, and filling the air with foul, toxic smoke. A baby doll and carseat in the back of the vehicle made one of the rescuers believe a child may be in the car. Barely able to see, he groped in the car, suffering more inhalation and burn injuries.
Later, the men learned that this was no ordinary car accident. The woman had wanted to end her life, and told police she didn’t remember veering off the road. When they learned this, the rescuers filed lawsuits against her for the injuries they continue to suffer. One of the men claims he has suffered permanent damage to his lungs as a result of the rescue, and the other says he has recurring nightmares of the woman in the burning car.
Although some people may consider the lawsuit frivolous and mean, it is actually not uncommon and falls under a recognized rescue doctrine. According to a Capital University Law School processor, “danger invites rescue . . . and if you’ve acted recklessly or negligently and someone gets hurt rescuing you” they have a right to seek compensation.
Three months after the rescue, the men were recognized for their bravery by the Marion post of the Ohio State Highway Patrol. The commander of the post still feels they deserve this honor, and, to his credit, one of the men interviewed about the incident says that if it happened today he would still rescue that woman from that burning car. But he did suffer serious injuries, and perhaps he deserves compensation for those injuries.
If you suffered injury as a result of someone else’s negligence, you may deserve compensation, even if people may question you for seeking it under the circumstances. If you would like to learn your legal options in Ohio, please contact Robert W. Kerpsack, CO LPA today for a free case evaluation.