The Good Samaritan

When in a crisis situation where someone is in distress, it is important to give first aid before the ambulance arrives. 

Those seconds can be the difference between living and dying. However, many have the fear of being sued or prosecuted for unintentional injury or wrongful death, and that isn’t illogical. 

That is why Good Samaritan laws exist in both the U.S. and Canada, but the legislation isn’t exactly uniform. Not only do laws vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction, but their interactions with other legal principles, such as consent and the right to refuse treatment. 

So what are Good Samaritan laws?

These laws offer limited protection to someone who attempts to help a person who experiences chest pains or falls and hits their head on the sidewalk. They are written to encourage bystanders to get involved in these and other situations without the fear of being sued for actions that inadvertently contribute to the person’s injury or death. 

Many Good Samaritan laws, such as those in Delaware, cover anyone who attempts to help in an emergency. On the other hand, Alabama’s law only extends to trained rescuers or employees unless the emergency is cardiac arrest, at which point anyone should get involved. 

Regardless, statues typically don’t always protect the person who provides care or assistance in a reckless manner. In some circumstances, courts interpret Good Samaritan laws and the results do not benefit the bystander. 

So you might be thinking to yourself, why take any action?

You’re not wrong. In most cases, a bystander can’t be held responsible for not providing assistance, but there are exceptions, such as Vermont, which requires bystanders to act in some limited capacity. 

It really depends on where you live or where the incident takes place, but legislation won’t always stop someone from filing a civil lawsuit. When you understand what you can and can’t do, it’s less likely for the other party to win. 

Find out what your state laws are and be prepared.

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