Causing wrong while doing good: on the question of liability for volunteers in emergencies

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Disaster response has always involved emergent activities by those immediately affected and volunteers converging on the scene. Although issues concerning responsibility and liability for volunteers in emergencies have been noted, in-depth discussions of the topic have been limited in disaster research. This article raises the following questions: What happens when people commit wrongs while trying to do good in disaster situations? How do legal and political systems balance encouraging citizens to help one another while holding people responsible for wrongdoings? By discussing the existing research literature and legal cases pertaining to the question of liability for, what we define as, volunteers, we argue that current understandings of liability are inadequate given recent calls for communities and citizens to become more disaster resilient and take on a larger role in response and preparedness work. We conclude by pointing towards three issues that ought to attract the attention of legal and social scholars in the future.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEnvironmental Hazards
Issue number1
Pages (from-to)78-91
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - 2021

ID: 200569541