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Issue Brief: Emergency Response and Tort Liability

posted on Mon, Mar 16 2015 3:27 pm by Mid-States Region

A "tort" is an injury to another person or to property, which is compensable under the law. Tort liability may arise from failure to exercise the care that a reasonably prudent person would exercise under like circumstances (negligence) or from intentional wrongdoing (intentional tort). Malpractice is a type of negligence, where a health care or other professional fails to follow generally accepted professional standards, causing injury. To recover, a plaintiff must prove that the defendant had a duty to the plaintiff, the defendant breached that duty by failing to conform to the required standard of conduct, the defendant's negligent conduct was the cause of the harm to the plaintiff, and the plaintiff was, in fact, harmed or damaged.

During an emergency or disaster, health care may be provided under stressful conditions with potential shortages of resources. Both paid and volunteer health professionals involved in emergency response activities may be concerned about potential liability for their actions or omissions. Negligence claims consider the circumstances under which care was rendered. Additionally, several laws protect individuals from liability for negligence that results in harm to another.

This issue brief outlines federal and Michigan laws that might apply to protect individuals from liability for negligence.

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