Good Samaritan Laws

Good Samaritan laws were put in place to encourage rescuers who voluntarily help others in emergency situations do so without fear of later being sued by the victim for making a mistake or causing further harm.

These laws vary by state, but generally protect anyone who does not already have an obligation to help or is not being paid for the help (such as happens with an on-duty fireman or policeman, or with doctors or nurses in a healthcare facility). Be careful if a conscious victim who seems to be aware of the situation refuses help. In those cases, it is usually best to follow the person’s wishes. If the victim is unconscious, step in and assist as much as you can.

Good Samaritan laws are designed for everyone, not just medically trained individuals. They only require the helper to use common sense, be reasonably competent and capable and not go beyond his or her level of expertise. This “expertise” typically consists of what was learned about first aid in school, on the job or elsewhere. In addition, these laws typically require that the rescuer take care to prevent further injury, for example not moving victims with possible neck or back injuries unless the victim’s life is further endangered by the emergency situation, such as a burning vehicle in danger of exploding. The key is to help whenever possible until professional assistance is available.

To find out more about Good Samaritan laws in your state, contact your state attorney general’s office or check with a qualified attorney or your local library.

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