By Amy E. Feldman
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – Should you be billed for the cost of your own search and rescue mission?
In 2009, then 17-year-old Scott Mason veered off the marked path and was stranded for three days on a New Hampshire mountaintop before he was rescued. And then he was in for real pain when he was billed $25,000 for the cost of the search and rescue mission because New Hampshire said he was negligent for veering off the path in the first place.
Can they charge you to save your life?
New Hampshire is one of eight states that has a law allowing the state to bill a person for the cost of his rescue, and has done so if the person’s own conduct was reckless or negligent. It seems wrong that taxpayers pick up the tab for rescuing someone who has driven around a barricade and into a swollen river but the National Association of Search and Rescue is strongly against charging for rescue because of the incidents in which people refused help or waited too long to call for help because of fear they’d be charged.
That’s why the Coast Guard and the National Park Service don’t, as a policy, charge for rescue operations.
So don’t drive around barricades looking for trouble. But if you find yourself in real danger, there’s no price you can put on your own life. Get saved first, worry about paying for it later.