Helping Someone in Distress Under the Good Samaritan Law
One of the most common questions your law firm may receive from clients is regarding “Good Samaritan” laws in your state and how they apply to a claim they are considering filing. Good Samaritan laws offer legal protection to individuals who voluntarily help those who are in injured, in danger, or otherwise incapacitated. These laws are intended to encourage people to help others in peril without worrying about the possible legal ramifications.
When someone volunteers to help a stranger who seems like they are in distress, we say that they are acting as a good Samaritan. Sometimes, unfortunately, that stranger may not need help at all or may be acting dishonestly to get attention or “trick” someone into taking actions which may result in a lawsuit. Good Samaritan laws exist to counteract attempts like this and to protect citizens who proactively try and help others.
Some states have laws which require residents to help a victim of a crime if doing so won’t endanger anyone including themselves. These laws are referred to as duty to rescue/report laws. Included states are Wisconsin, Florida, Washington, California, Massachusetts, Hawaii, Ohio, Rhode Island, Minnesota, and Vermont.
Some states have similar duty to rescue/report laws which only apply in certain circumstances. These circumstances may include when an individual creates a danger, when a rescue attempt is in progress, or if an individual holds a professional or circumstantial relationship with the victim. Circumstantial relationships may include everything from a parent/teacher relationship to a custodial relationship or even a business owner/client relationship.
Other states do not have laws which govern when an individual must help a stranger in peril but simply offer protection should they choose to. These laws are more open-ended and may take effect when a rescue attempt fails, for example, or results in unfavorable circumstances. All types of Good Samaritan laws, as mentioned above, exist to encourage us to help others who are in need.
If you have legal clients who are questioning the specific ways in which Good Samaritan laws can affect a claim that is in process, you will need to examine the exact laws in your state. Every state handles personal injury claims which involve Good Samaritan laws differently. The interaction between Good Samaritan laws and your client’s case will also depend on the circumstances of the case.
If your law firm needs a user-friendly way to track how Good Samaritan laws and other similar laws interact in your state, you can utilize Case Pacer’s law library feature to enter legal laws, information, and statutes and easily retrieve this information at any time. This ensures your lawyers and paralegals stay on top of local laws as they fluctuate and can do so in the very same interface where they work and manage individual cases.
Contact a Case Pacer representative today to see what other benefits Case Pacer can bring to your law firm.