When the Good Samaritan Laws Can Protect You (and When They Can’t)
Generally speaking, Good Samaritan laws provide legal protection for people who help the injured, sick, or incapacitated. These types of laws exist in all 50 states and Washington, DC. They exist even in the airspace above the country, so no doctor or well-meaning and qualified person should think twice before offering help to someone in need, even on an airplane, when it is not entirely clear where they are geographically.
This is important because Good Samaritan laws and their protection vary from state to state. While the whole point of these laws is to make sure no one ever refuses to help someone in danger because they don’t want to face the legal consequences, there are a few more things to consider depending on where you live. Here is a handy list of laws in each state . Learn these things and the laws specific to your area now so you don’t have to try to figure them out the next time you’re in an emergency.
When do the Good Samaritan Laws go into effect?
There are several scenarios that come to mind when we discuss the laws of the Good Samaritan. For example, in all 50 states and the District of Columbia, laws exempt people from liability when using automated external defibrillators or AEDs in an emergency. Basically, if someone needs an AED used on them and it falls on you, but your efforts don’t work or execute perfectly, you can’t be prosecuted or held accountable. Fear of being sued for using equipment, doing something wrong, or not preventing death should not stop you from trying.
These laws are also related to drug overdoses. Nearly every state has a Good Samaritan statute that covers cases of overdose, except for Kansas, Texas, and Wyoming . In the other 47 states and the District of Columbia, these laws are in place to ensure that no one shirks an emergency call when someone close to them experiences an overdose. In New York City , for example, the law allows people to call 911 for an overdose without fear of being arrested as soon as law enforcement arrives. ( Studies show that calling 911 and contacting law enforcement for an overdose is a serious problem for people who use drugs, but read your state’s laws to better understand what protections you have.)
Just because the laws of your jurisdiction may protect you if you act at the scene of an emergency does not mean you should provide assistance unless you are in Minnesota, Vermont, or Rhode Island. Good Samaritan laws in these states require a person at the scene to provide reasonable assistance to anyone in need, which may only include an emergency call. misdemeanor or fine, depending on where you are.
In addition, the court may take into account the legal principle of imminent danger to determine whether you are covered under the Good Samaritan Act. If some kind of accident or incident happened but the person was not in immediate danger and you still sought to help them by harming them in the process, you could be held liable for it. Don’t let that discourage you from helping out in a real emergency, of course, but take a split second to assess if you’re actually on the scene.
How do the Good Samaritan laws affect healthcare professionals?
Every state except Kentucky provides legal insurance for a licensed physician who must provide emergency care even if he is not licensed in that state. (In Kentucky, physicians can still perform emergency care under the Good Samaritan laws, but they must be licensed in Kentucky to do so.)
According to the laws, doctors are largely exempt from civil liability if they provide emergency care. Physicians generally have legal immunity to charges of ordinary negligence, but not of intentional or wanton negligence. Carefully study the laws of your state. For example, if a doctor has a pre-existing obligation to care for a person—for example, if that person is already their patient, or if the doctor is on call when an emergency occurs—Good Samaritan laws may not apply. In some states, such as Colorado, laws allow you to cover medical care provided in a hospital setting that is outside of your normal medical responsibilities. Again, read the laws of your state carefully.
What is consent and implied consent?
When researching what laws are in place in your state, you will come across the phrases “consent” and “implied consent.”
Implied consent takes effect if the victim or patient is intoxicated, delusional, unresponsive, or otherwise unable to confirm that yes, you can help them. If someone is unable to make decisions about their own safety, or you have good reason to believe that they are not, take action. The same principle applies if the person in need of assistance is a minor and their guardian is not around to give you consent, or if the guardian himself is unconscious, intoxicated, or otherwise unable to give consent.
In the event that the caregiver does not give consent, you do not need to stop yourself from providing assistance, such as performing the Heimlich maneuver or cardiopulmonary resuscitation, because in this case it is often believed that the caregiver has neglected the minor.
Basic facts about the laws of the good samaritan
In general, for these laws to apply and for you to provide assistance, the situation must be an emergency, your services must be voluntary, and you must obtain consent whenever possible. You cannot charge for your help and you must act in good faith.
Please also note that you may still be involved in a lawsuit and end up in court. Don’t panic about this; That ‘s what laws are for.
The thing is, if something terrible happens and you’re around, the courts would rather you intervene in good faith than stand by and worry about you getting a battery charge or getting in trouble with the law, say, due to the fact that there are prohibited substances nearby. . If you are at the scene of an emergency, take action. Call 911, do a Heimlich, turn on the AED, or give CPR. Just check your state’s laws now to be as informed as possible about your rights and expectations.