Bill Would Provide Civil Immunity for Attempting to Rescue a Child or Pet from Harm’s Way
Assemblyman Daniel Benson is proposing legislation to help protect children and pets from being harmed by sweltering temperatures inside locked vehicles by shielding good Samaritans from liability should they attempt a rescue.
The bill, which is modeled after a recently enacted Tennessee law, would provide immunity from civil liability for anyone who forcibly enters a vehicle to remove a minor or an animal from the vehicle under certain circumstances.
“Every summer we hear tragic stories of a child or pet who succumbed to sweltering temperatures after being left in a locked car, sometimes even just for a few minutes,” said Benson (D-Mercer/Middlesex). “What people often don’t realize is how quickly temperatures inside the car can escalate. On a warm day, a temperature inside a car can exceed 120 degrees in a matter of minutes – even with the windows partially open. Our number one goal is to prevent this from happening period, but should an incident arise, well-meaning individuals shouldn’t be held at fault for attempting to save a life.”
Benson pointed to statistics from the American Veterinary Medical Association which show how quickly temperatures inside a vehicle can rise based on various outdoor temperatures: https://www.avma.org/public/PetCare/Pages/pets-in-vehicles.aspx.
Benson also noted that the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration reports that there have been 637 deaths in the Unites States since 1998 due to adults leaving young children in vehicles and gives advice for parents to help avoid similar tragedies: http://www.nhtsa.gov/About+NHTSA/Press+Releases/2015/nhtsa-child-heatstroke-advisory-2015.
Benson also urged pet owners to visit the Human Society’s website for tips on how to keep pets safe in the heat: http://www.humanesociety.org/animals/resources/tips/pets_safe_heat_wave.html.
Under Benson’s bill, immunity would apply if the person:
1) determines the vehicle is locked or there is otherwise no reasonable method for the minor or animal to exit the vehicle;
2) reasonably believes that forcible entry into the vehicle is necessary because the minor or animal is in imminent danger of suffering harm if not immediately removed from the vehicle;
3) contacts the police or other emergency response personnel prior to forcibly entering the vehicle;
4) places a notice on the vehicle’s windshield with the person’s contact information, the reason the entry was made, the location of the minor or animal, and the fact that the police or other emergency response personnel have been notified;
5) remains with the minor or animal in a safe location, out of the elements but reasonably close to the vehicle, until the police or other emergency response personnel arrive; and
6) uses no more force to enter the vehicle and remove the minor or animal from the vehicle than necessary under the circumstances.
Benson intends to formally introduce the legislation the next time the Assembly is in session.