The general public is often afraid to help someone in an emergency situation, such as an auto accident. Why? Fear of a lawsuit? There are laws to protect a person who renders aid in an emergency. "Good Samaritan" laws protect someone who comes to the aid of another through an act of kindness. These laws were created to encourage people to help others in an emergency without fear of being sued. In order to be protected, the good samaritan’s actions must be reasonable and prudent, meaning the samaritan acted responsibly, sensibly, and carefully.
For example, if someone is seriously injured in a car accident and the car is on fire, moving the victim could save their life. Even with Good Samaritan laws, one should only attempt to assist within one’s experience and training. If the samaritan has no training and the person is not in immediate danger, the samaritan should solicit help from someone with appropriate experience. The best protection from potential liability when coming to the aid of others is common sense; one must think and act responsibly. Also, one should act on behalf of the victim, not for recognition as a hero.
Here are some solid tips for being a good samaritan while, at the same time, staying out of court:
- Take a CPR and first aid class
- Follow your training
- Use common sense
- Don’t do anything you are not trained to do
- Get professional help for the victim
- Do not accept gifts or rewards
Despite Good Samaritan laws, if a person provides aid that causes injury, the victim can still pursue litigation if it is believed that the aid given was reckless. These laws usually state that if the samaritan assists someone, he/she is obligated to stay at the scene until professional assistance arrives. If the samaritan fails to do so, suit against the samaritan is possible. Good Samaritan laws vary by state; thus, it is important to know the laws that apply to the situation. Consult a legal professional or your local government for information on the Good Samaritan laws in your state.
The intent of Good Samaritan laws is to make it possible to help save a person without fear of legal recourse if the person is ultimately hurt by treatment or dies. When a person acts as a Good Samaritan to help others, he/she should generally not be sued unless he/she does not act “in good faith.” As long as the person is acting “in good faith,” in most instances, he/she will not be held liable. It is important that exposure to personal injury lawsuits does not deter good people from trying to help others in emergency situations.
Good Samaritan laws will not protect a good samaritan from everything, but they will protect him/her from litigation in situations where conduct was reasonable and in compliance with the statute. A reputable attorney can assist in determining if a case is reasonable and justifiable. Ultimately, it is up to a judge or jury to determine the reasonableness of the samaritan’s conduct and make reasonable decisions when awarding damages. Lawsuit Financial, the pro-justice lawsuit funding company, certainly encourages its’ readers to assist others in emergency situations. However, do so sensibly and cautiously so that the victim is not further endangered or injured and you avoid potential liability in situations where you were only trying your best to assist.
Attorney, certified civil mediator, and award-winning author of the Zachary Blake Betrayal Series. Mark Bello is also a member of the State Bar of Michigan, a sustaining member of the Michigan Association for Justice, and a member of the American Association for Justice.