If you’re thinking about stopping and offering assistance the next time you come across an accident or someone requiring assistance you had better check your state’s Good Samaritan Law first.
Most countries and all US states have a Good Samaritan Law. They were introduced to protect members of the public or volunteers who happen upon an accident or someone in need of help, and render assistance at the scene of the accident or incident. However, when you delve into it a bit further, the Good Samaritan Laws across the US vary from state to state.
In some states it’s mandatory to stop and help (Vermont and Minnesota for instance) and you’re protected from prosecution should you inadvertently make a mistake whilst doing so. In other states stopping to help is optional but you’re still protected by law if you do choose to do so. Then there are the states like Michigan that make it rather difficult to do one’s Good Samaritan duties because there of the risk of prosecution.
But beware – even when the law affords immunity from prosecution there are still circumstances with almost all Good Samaritan Laws where any protection becomes null and void. These may include situations where:
- the person rendering the assistance is the one responsible for causing the accident. For instance, the driver of a vehicle that causes an accident renders emergency assistance to those injured in the accident. This does not absolve that person of liability for causing the accident and the injuries to other parties AND it also may not absolve them from any damages or litigation that could arise as a result of them providing emergency assistance either.
- the person rendering the assistance is expecting to be paid for his or her services. This would apply to situations where someone provides emergency care but only after the injured party agrees to pay them for doing so.
- the person rendering the assistance behaves in a deliberately negligent manner when treating the injured party. Determining what constitutes negligent behavior under these circumstances would likely be up to a court to determine after due examination of all the facts surrounding the incident.
- the person rendering the assistance does so during the course of their usual job ie health care workers assisting someone in a health care facility.
Good Samaritan laws can become even more confusing if you happen to be a health care professional that offers assistance in an emergency whilst off duty. At least 2 states have made it mandatory for off duty doctors to provide assistance if they are in the vicinity with a ‘duty to assist’ law. Nearly half the states provide off duty doctors with immunity whilst attending to an emergency in a medical facility but other states don’t.
But probably the simplest Good Samaritan Law of the lot is Hawaii’s, which reads as follows:
“Any person who in good faith renders emergency care, without remuneration or expectation of remuneration, at the scene of an accident or emergency to the victim of the accident or emergency shall not be liable for any civil damages resulting from the persons acts or omission, except for such damages as may result from the persons gross negligence or wanton acts or omissions.”
Fortunately these days most potential good Samaritans will have a Smart phone on them and using it to consult Google to find out what the local Good Samaritan Law is before providing assistance is probably not an altogether bad move. It’s to be hoped that the person requiring assistance doesn’t pass away from their injuries in the meantime.
This article is provided as a courtesy to our readers and followers interested in law related topics. Nothing on this site should be construed as legal advice, and if you’ve been arrested for a DUI we recommend consulting with a DUI Lawyer in Los Angeles, not the internet!