Image of two men helping a third man up after a fall

Are You Legally Obligated to Help Someone in Need?

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By now it is likely you’ve heard about the recent tragedy in which several Florida teenagers stood by laughing and filming the fatal drowning of another man in a pond. Though many were horrified by their actions (or inaction), this incident has brought to light that neither citizens in Florida or California are legally obligated to help someone in need. We will explore this situation in further depth in this post.

The Incident

On July 9th, 32-year-old disabled man Jamel Dunn entered a fenced pond off Plaza Parkway. Dunn, who walks with a cane, quickly began to drown and calling for help. A group of teenagers — all between the ages of 14 and 16 — noticed Dunn struggling and began filming his struggle while adding heartless narration, making fun of Dunn and acknowledging that he was going to die. The teens did nothing to help Dunn, nor did they call 911 for emergency help. Once he slipped under the water for the final time, one teen can be heard saying, “Oh, he just died,” and then the group left.

They never alerted anyone to what they saw. They posted the video online, leading to the discovery of Dunn’s body in the pond three days after his death. Dunn was engaged and the father of two children.

Legal Repercussions

Unfortunately for Dunn and his family, Florida does not have any laws in place requiring private citizens to help others in need or to alert the authorities in such a situation. California doesn’t either. In our state, the only people obligated to report dangerous circumstances are first responders, including police officers, firefighters, and EMTs; and people with a “duty to report” crimes against minors aged 14 and younger.

Good Samaritan Laws

California state residents are protected from civil or criminal charges if they cause damage in an attempt to rescue someone from harm. Examples include breaking a bone while performing CPR or breaking a window to save a child from dying in a hot car. Again, none of our laws have legally obligated people to provide help in emergency situations.

Getting Help Where You Need It

Our only hope following this tragic and preventable death is that more people will tap into their humanitarian sides and provide aid where they can. If you have suffered a personal injury and need legal representation, contact Hales & Associates, A Professional Law Corporation today at (951) 489-3320 to schedule a free consultation with an experienced Temecula lawyer.

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