All states offer a version of a Good Samaritan law. These laws are intended to protect people who act to offer help in emergency situations, so they can do what is necessary to help without worrying about being liable for damages after the emergency has passed.
Good Samaritan Law
Good Samaritan laws take their name from a parable commonly referred to as the Parable of the Good Samaritan, which details the aid given from one traveler to another of a different religious or ethnic background who had been beaten and robbed.
These laws protect those who offer aid in emergency; as long as the emergency was not caused by the person who offers help and the actions taken to help are reasonable in light of the situation. They do not protect people who are careless or negligent in offering help, especially if this leads to further injury to the victim of the emergency.
State Law Variations
Details concerning Good Samaritan laws and acts can vary, and that includes who is protected from liability in particular circumstances. Laypersons are not always protected; in some cases protection under this law is only available to trained personnel such as doctors and nurses.
In the United States and Canada there are provisions which constitute Good Samaritan Law regarding consent, both implied and parental. Good Samaritan laws should not be confused with duty to rescue which is a concept of tort law that describes a circumstance in which a party can be held liable for failing to come to the rescue of another party in peril.
Under Good Samaritan law first aid provided to those in need cannot be in exchange for reward or financial compensation. Because of this medical professionals are usually not protected under Good Samaritan laws when performing first aid in connection with their place of employ. In fact, there are several states that employ specific provisions for trained medical professionals acting as either volunteers or members of rescue squads acting without expectation of compensation.
It should be noted that those who respond to an event should not leave the scene until it is necessary to call for medical assistance, someone of equal or higher ability assumes responsibility, or continuing to give aid proves unsafe. Responders under the Good Samaritan law are not legally liable for disfigurement, disability, or death as long as the responder acted in good faith, a responsible manner, and in accordance with their level of training.
Additional Frequently Asked Questions
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