You’ve probably heard of the term “Good Samaritan” before. It originated from the Bible to describe an anonymous person who did good deeds without expectations.
We still use this term today when we talk about people who do favors for others and don’t want anything back in return. For example — if you’ve ever had anyone in front of you in line pay for your coffee for no reason, they may have been your Good Samaritan that day.
But now that the term Good Samaritan is widely recognized as a law in the courtroom, it inevitably carries more weight.
What Are Good Samaritan Laws?
Let’s face it, not all of our good deeds always go as planned. We could have great intentions for doing something, but it might turn out hurting us in the end. That’s why Good Samaritan Laws were created.
Good Samaritan Laws are designed to protect caregivers from being prosecuted for accidents or medical mistakes. These caregivers could range from someone who helps their grandmother everyday to a person who sees someone choking in a restaurant. And when it comes to accidents and illness, they’re anything but predictable.
Mistakes can happen, even under the watch of the most meticulous caretakers. So if a reasonable mistake occurs under your watch, you may be protected by Good Samaritan Laws as long as it is not a careless or grave error.
Requirements & Expectations of Good Samaritans
Each state is different when it comes to Good Samaritan Laws. One state could cover all injuries and accidents, while one right next to it may have a completely different system. Virginia, Pennsylvania, & Delaware, for example, protect anyone who tries to help someone in an emergency. Their surrounding states, however, have more narrow or specific expectations.
Many states only cover medical mistakes (excluding car accidents), states like Oklahoma only protect those who offer CPR or help with bleeding, and some states specify who the law protects. Some only protect people who are medically trained. In Alabama, all workers in the education system are covered by The Good Samaritan Law in case of an emergency while a child is in their care. Some places even use the act to demand that people help if they see someone in need. So depending on your state, the coverage varies greatly.
But no matter where you are, the basic rules stay the same:
- The Good Samaritan Law is not designed to protect against gross medical errors
- The law is not a pass that allows for caregivers to make frequent mistakes
So then who do these laws typically protect nationwide?
Protecting Reasonable Mistakes
The Good Samaritan Law was originally intended to protect doctors and physicians who made medical mistakes on the job. Now, it commonly includes unpaid rescuers and others who aren’t expecting a reward.
Caregiving mistakes are typically excused as long as they are considered “reasonable” in court. As long as the jury and judge rule an error to be reasonable, the person who makes the mistake likely won’t be charged. However, this makes protection very narrow in the courtroom because jurors might have specific expectations or standards.
Using Good Samaritan Laws
Ultimately, how a Good Samaritan Law is used is completely up to the people in the court & your state’s specific guidelines.
If you’re curious about your state’s Good Samaritan Laws, you should be able to easily find it online in your state’s legal records. In Pennsylvania, “Any person who renders emergency care, first aid or rescue at the scene of an emergency…shall not be liable to such person for any civil damages as a result of any acts or omissions in rendering the emergency care, first aid or rescue, or moving the person to a place of medical care.” Basically, that means that if you are trying to help someone and something goes wrong, you will not be responsible for the situation.
If you’d like to learn more about Pennsylvania’s Good Samaritan Law, give our team a call at 866-488-8349.