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A reminder to all Good Samaritans during the winter storm

If you have to go out today, we commend you. A major winter storm is taking aim at parts of eastern Pennsylvania, New York, and Massachusetts and is expected to dump more than a foot of snow over the next couple days.

We have written a number of times on the dangers of winter driving and how people have a legal (and practical) duty to use reasonable care when behind the wheel and driving condition deteriorate, but sometimes reasonable care is not enough to prevent an accident. Moreover, it may not prevent a driver from going into a ditch.

In these situations, a Good Samaritan may stop and offer assistance. But what legal obligations to passersby generally have?

Under Pennsylvania law, people generally do not have an obligation to stop and render assistance absent three important exceptions:

-          A person actually caused the accident (or condition) that put the person in peril. In these instances, the offending person would have a duty to help.

-          The person began rendering aid, and then stopped. Essentially, if a reasonable person would have continued with the rescue, this expectation would apply.

-          There is a special relationship between the victim and the rescuer. Essentially, a parent would have a duty to rescue a child, and in some cases, an employer would have a duty to rescue an employee.

So while we hope that the winter storm does not leave people stranded or in perilous conditions, we also hope that rescues are undertaken with reasonable care. 

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