A good Samaritan helps others purely for the sake of helping others, not for rewards or praise. After witnessing a car accident, for example, a good Samaritan may pull over to assist injured victims. California, like many states, has a law that protects good Samaritans from liability if they accidentally injure someone while making a good faith attempt to help that person. California’s Good Samaritan Law encourages people to step in to help during emergencies when offering assistance could mean the difference between life and death.
California Health and Safety Code 1799.102
In California, if a volunteer renders emergency medical or nonmedical assistance in good faith, and not for pay, the volunteer will not be liable for any civil damages that result from any act or omission on his or her part. This is California’s Good Samaritan Law, found in California Health and Safety Code 1799.102. The injured party will not be able to bring a lawsuit against the volunteer for causing or exacerbating any injuries or property damages while rendering aid in good faith.
If a volunteer moves someone out of a burning vehicle, for example, but doing so exacerbated a spinal cord injury, the victim could not hold the good Samaritan liable for making the injury worse. California’s Good Samaritan Law intends to encourage people to volunteer to help others in emergencies by ensuring volunteers’ protection from civil liability. This law can give volunteers peace of mind, enabling them to step forward without fear of becoming liable for unintentionally causing or worsening an injury.
The only exceptions to the Good Samaritan Law are if the volunteer willfully or wantonly engages in misconduct that causes the victim’s injuries or property damages, or if the volunteer is grossly negligent. Ordinary negligence arising in good faith, such as failing to recognize the signs of a spinal cord injury, will not make the volunteer liable for the victim’s civil damages. Gross negligence, recklessness or intent to harm, however, will fall outside the protections of California’s Good Samaritan Law.
Do You Have to Help in an Emergency?
While California’s Good Samaritan Law protects emergency volunteers, it does not require witnesses or bystanders to render aid. If you witness an accident, the law does not obligate you to step in to assist victims. Doing so, however, could save a life. As the first person to the scene of an accident, you can take steps to help those in need without placing yourself in danger of civil liability.
- Call 911. Even if you think someone else might have already dialed, call 911 and report the accident. Get the police and paramedics to the scene as quickly as possible.
- Find out if anyone has injuries. Ask around to see if anyone in the accident suffered any injuries. If so, request paramedics. Stay on the phone and follow the 911 operator’s instructions for rendering emergency aid to victims, if necessary.
- Help the injured person. Do not move an injured person unless it is necessary to protect him or her from further harm. Stay with him or her and help the victim remain calm until professional help arrives.
Once the police arrive, remain at the scene until told you can leave. If you witnessed the accident, the police may want to get a statement from you before you go. Giving a statement, as well as your name and contact information, could help the victim’s case against the party that caused the accident later. You will not have to testify in court unless you receive a subpoena ordering you to do so. If you see someone in need of emergency assistance in California, do your best to help. California’s Good Samaritan Law will protect you from liability if you accidentally make a mistake. Helping out could save someone’s life.