In emergency situations, it is essential to take immediate action in order to save lives. Those who are present during an emergency should be able to offer assistance without worrying about any unintended consequences that may arise.
To encourage people to help during emergencies without worrying about legal consequences, California has a law called the “Good Samaritan Law” under Health and Safety Code 1799.102 HSC. This law protects individuals who provide medical or non-medical aid in good faith during emergencies.
Basically, if you help someone during an emergency without intending to harm them, this law will protect you from being held legally responsible for any unintended injuries or complications that may occur. It’s meant to make sure that people can take immediate action to save lives without fear of getting into trouble.
According to HSC 1799.102, individuals who provide emergency medical or nonmedical care at the site of an emergency without expecting any compensation are protected from civil liability for any actions or omissions. However, this protection does not extend to emergency departments or other locations where medical care is typically provided. This provision only applies to the specific medical, law enforcement, and emergency personnel referenced in this chapter.
In California, the Good Samaritan laws provide coverage for a variety of emergency situations, which include the following:
- Emergency First Aid or Medical Care: If you possess medical expertise or have received training in first aid, you can administer emergency care to an injured individual without the fear of facing a negligence lawsuit. As long as you act in good faith and stay within the limits of your training, you will be protected.
- Reporting Suspected Child Abuse or Neglect: If you have reason to believe that a child is experiencing abuse or neglect, you are legally obligated to report it to the appropriate authorities. California’s Good Samaritan laws safeguard you from civil or criminal liability when making such reports in good faith.
- Rescuing Individuals From Peril: If you witness someone in a dangerous situation, such as drowning or being trapped in a burning building, you have the right to attempt a rescue without the risk of being sued for negligence. As long as you act in good faith and within your capabilities, you are protected.
- Utilizing an Automated External Defibrillator (AED): If you have been trained in the use of an AED and use it to assist someone experiencing sudden cardiac arrest, California’s Good Samaritan laws shield you from liability for any injuries resulting from its use. It is essential to act in good faith and adhere to the instructions provided by the manufacturer.
The principal elements of the California Good Samaritan Law, as outlined in Health and Safety Code section 1799.102, are as follows:
- The law provides immunity from civil liability for individuals who render medical or non-medical assistance at the scene of an emergency. This protection applies to both regular citizens and healthcare professionals acting in good faith and without seeking compensation.
- The law does not protect against liability for acts of gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct. It also does not necessarily protect against criminal prosecution if a crime is committed during the emergency. Additionally, the definition of “scene of an emergency” does not include places where medical care is typically provided, such as emergency rooms or EMT vehicles.
- Good Samaritans must exercise reasonable care and avoid gross negligence, which is a higher standard than ordinary negligence. Gross negligence refers to a severe departure from what a reasonably cautious person would do in the same situation to prevent harm.
- Good Samaritans must also refrain from willful or wanton misconduct, which involves intentional or reckless disregard for the safety of others or the disregard of duty necessary for someone’s property.
- Healthcare professionals providing emergency aid outside their regular professional context are protected under this law. However, their actions are evaluated according to the standard of what another professional with comparable training would reasonably do under the same circumstances.
What is Protected Under Good Samaritan Law?
The Good Samaritan law provides protection to individuals from liability under the following conditions:
- Actions are done in good faith, meaning that the person genuinely intends to help and does not have any malicious intent.
- Actions are not done for financial gain or monetary compensation.
- Assistance is provided in a medical or non-medical emergency situation.
Under the Good Samaritan law, individuals are also protected from civil damages. This includes compensatory damages, which are intended to compensate the injured party for their losses or injuries, and punitive damages, which are intended to punish the wrongdoer for their actions.
Initially, the Good Samaritan Law was limited to providing emergency medical care. However, in 2009, the California legislature passed Assembly Bill 83, amending the law to include legal protection for emergency non-medical care as well.
Here are some examples of emergency medical care:
- Performing CPR on a person experiencing a heart attack in a restaurant.
- Applying direct pressure to a bleeding limb to control the bleeding.
- Administering the Heimlich Maneuver to a choking victim.
Here are some examples of emergency non-medical care:
- Pulling an injured driver out of a burning car to safety.
- Dragging a drowning victim out of the water to prevent further harm.
- Offering water to an injured person while waiting for emergency medical help.
When Does The Good Samaritan Law Not Apply?
The California Good Samaritan law protects individuals from civil liability, but does not apply to acts of gross negligence or willful misconduct.
Acts of gross negligence involve acting without reasonable care, displaying extreme irresponsibility, or engaging in behavior that significantly deviates from what a reasonable person would do in emergency situations.
Willful or wanton misconduct is behavior that demonstrates a conscious disregard for the safety of others, characterized by extreme recklessness.
The Good Samaritan law does not apply when rescuers commit a crime while providing aid. Remember that even when offering help in an emergency, individuals must always act within the boundaries of the law to avoid potential criminal prosecution.
Additionally, California Health and Safety Code 11376.5 HSC offers protection from criminal charges for drug possession or use to those who seek medical assistance for someone experiencing a drug-related overdose. This protection does not extend to other criminal activities. It’s important to note that civil damages under this law can include compensatory and punitive damages.
California Health and Safety Code 11376.5 does not provide protection against prosecution for the sale of drugs as defined in HSC 11352. Additionally, it does not offer immunity for driving under the influence of drugs, as stated in Vehicle Code 23152.
Speak With Criminal Defense Lawyer From Tabibnia Law Firm
While the Good Samaritan Law provides legal defense against legal action, it does not grant complete immunity. It serves as protection in case someone you assisted in an emergency decides to file a civil suit, claiming that you caused harm due to gross negligence or wanton misconduct.
In such a situation, the burden of proof lies with the plaintiff to demonstrate that you acted inappropriately. By default, if you can show that you acted in good faith, the law states that you cannot be held legally liable, regardless of any lawsuits that may be filed against you.
If you or someone you know assisted someone in a medical or non-medical emergency and require legal advice, consider reaching out to Tabibnia Law Firm. In California, Good Samaritan laws exist to provide support to individuals who offer emergency assistance or care without the fear of facing legal consequences.
Generally, as long as you act in good faith and within the limits of your training or abilities, you are protected from any liability for injuries that may occur as a result of your actions or omissions. However, there are exceptions to this law, and it is crucial to consult with a qualified attorney at Tabibnia Law Firm who can guide you through the legal process.
Tabibnia Law Firm is committed to fighting for your legal rights from the initial consultation to the resolution of your case. To schedule a consultation, you can call (866)-713-2159 or complete our contact form.