Continued from page 1

Maryland and Virginia also require rescuers to avoid “gross negligence” in helping injured persons.

There’s no risk of criminal prosecution because “There’s not any criminal intent there,” said Channing Phillips, spokesman for the U.S. Attorney’s Office in Washington.

The California ruling raises the question of whether bystanders might be discouraged from helping injured people in an emergency.

“This decision won’t stop people from trying to rescue others,” Mr. Winkler said. “It doesn’t say that the rescuer is liable. It only says that the injured woman can bring a suit alleging the rescuer acted improperly. Given the emergency circumstances, a jury is not likely to hold the rescuer liable.”