Good Samaritan Laws

Good samaritan laws are in place in all states to encourage people to help others in the case of emergency medical situations where trained rescue personnel have yet to arrive. Good samaritan laws protect people from civil liability for injuries when an attempt has been made to aid someone needing medical attention. Voluntarily helping others is encouraged by good samaritan laws so that people need not fear legal repercussions for trying to assist. Good samaritan laws do not protect persons who act recklessly or negligently. 

Good samaritan laws may or may not protect a person attempting a rescue. In a case in California, a woman pulled a co-worker from a car causing permanent spinal injury. The woman attempting the rescue was found liable for the injury.   

For trained medical persons attempting to aid others in a medical sense, good samaritan laws usually apply as long as the person is off the clock. Monetary compensation often makes void the protection of good samaritan laws.

Good samaritan laws differ from state to state regarding consent (when possible) of the person being assisted, parental rights, and the right to refuse treatment. Touching a person who has refused help or treatment can result in assault and battery charges. Four key elements in good samaritan laws are:

  • Permission of ill/injured person when possible

  • Care given inappropriate (non-reckless) manner

  • The person covered by good samaritan laws was NOT the one who caused an accident

  • Care was being given because it was an emergency and trained help had yet to arrive

Several states have begun to amend their good samaritan laws to include immunity from criminal prosecution for person(s) summoning help in situations where illicit activities/substances are involved. For example, if a car with several teenagers is involved in an accident due to driving under the influence and drinking underage- the teenagers would not need to fear legal redress for summoning police and rescue workers to the scene. This type of immunity would also protect persons using illegal drugs who make 911 calls for others who have overdosed and need immediate help.

States that already have good samaritan laws with the former listed immunity are New York, Florida, New Mexico, Illinois, Colorado, Massachusetts, and Washington. New Hampshire, Vermont, and New Jersey are considering such amendments to their existing good samaritan laws.