What Are “Good Samaritan” Laws and How Do They Affect Me?

A Good Samaritan law is intended to protect anyone who assists a person who is hurt or in danger of some kind. The idea is that even if the helping person causes unintended consequences, he or she is protected from prosecution.

Where are Good Samaritans protected?

All fifty states and the District of Columbia have Good Samaritan Laws. The coverage varies by jurisdiction.

Who is covered?

Some states focus on “first responders” such as doctors and emergency medical technicians. Others include businesses and non-profits who act in an emergency situation.

Some states protect any person who gives assistance, while others cover only trained rescue personnel.

Anyone who is performing the regular duties of a job, such as a nurse, is not protected under Good Samaritan statutes.

What conditions must be met?

The generally accepted standards for Good Samaritan behavior say you must be taking voluntary action in good faith to help someone in an emergency, and the person being helped must not object to your assistance.

The circumstances must constitute a true emergency, and the person rendering assistance cannot charge for services.

In some states, you are liable if you do not act in an emergency situation.

When are you not protected?

You are not protected from civil rights lawsuits, or from any civil action. You are also not protected if a court finds that you committed gross negligence while rendering assistance.

What Do Good Samaritan Laws Mean for You?

When an emergency arises, you can’t afford to be paralyzed by the fear of acting. Remember that not acting can make you liable in some locales. Your best option is to be prepared by knowing the Good Samaritan laws in your area.

If you act incorrectly you could be subject to being charged with anything from a misdemeanor to a more serious offense. If you are the type who helps people without hesitation, make sure the person needs help and that the situation is an emergency.

If you are a trained medical professional, your duty will be much different than it would for a regular citizen. The laws in most states would say that you must render assistance because of your background.

Good Samaritan laws were designed to protect people who help others in an emergency, but like all laws, they can get you in trouble as well. Make sure you know what kind of help you can render and what you cannot do. Don’t assume that any help you give is all right. In addition, be aware that there is no protection from civil suits, so avoid doing any harm whatsoever.

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