In today’s society, it seems people sue one another for just about anything. When considering helping at the scene of an accident or performing life-saving measures in an emergency situation, bystanders often experience hesitancy.
Could I be sued for providing first aid if something goes wrong? Will I be held liable if I perform CPR and the victim dies?
These just a few of the questions we ask ourselves before we consider stepping in. The truth is….
Bystanders are NOT held liable when acting in good faith to provide emergency care, even when that care results in further injury or death.
Thanks to the Good Samaritan Laws at the statewide level, bystanders are protected and given immunity against legal action for mistakes that may occur with reasonable care.
Even more so, when you look at responding to a Sudden Cardiac Arrest by CPR or an AED, there are national laws that protect those who respond. The Federal Cardiac Arrest Survival Act (H.R. 2498. SEC 404 CASA) encourages response to cardiac arrest and protects individuals who do so. It states:
“…any person who uses or attempts to use an automated external defibrillator device on a victim of a perceived medical emergency is immune from civil liability for any harm resulting from the use or attempted use of such device; and in addition, any person who acquired the device is immune from such liability.”H.R. 2498 SEC 404
The law protects those who respond to a cardiac arrest, as long as no negligence was shown in the response. And owning an AED also comes with that same immunity.
How do Good Samaritan Laws Protect me?
All 50 states have what is called a Good Samaritan Law that protects those who provide first aid or rescue services at the scene of an accident, or perform life-saving measures in an emergency, such as CPR or use of an AED.
The law recognizes a Good Samaritan as someone voluntarily providing aid to another in need of care or assistance in an emergency. This could be a car accident, a home fire, a person choking, or a Sudden Cardiac Arrest.
While laws differ from state to state, three general premises remain. You are not held liable as long as you….
- Provide care as a result of an accident or some form of emergency
- Did not cause the accident or emergency
- Do not exhibit gross negligence or intentionally cause further harm in your care.
(Source: Gilman & Bedigian, LLC)
Good Samaritan Laws affirm that:
Anyone who renders aid or rescue services in good faith as the result of an emergency that was not caused by such person, in actions that are not willful or gross negligence, are granted immunity from legal action for any mistakes or actions that lead to further injury or death.
These laws protect you against reasonable mistakes; situations where you stop to help and the victim is injured further or later dies at the hospital. In these situations, you are not held liable. Acting in the manner that any responsible person would in the same situation grants you this immunity.
What does it mean to “Act in Good Faith”?
Acting in Good Faith assumes that the person has a goodwill motive to provide care without intending further harm or doing so for personal gain. It invokes a sense of honesty and a sincere desire for the wellbeing of another.
Most definitions will point back to acting in a manner that any reasonable person would act in a similar situation. And that the care shall not cease until further equipped/trained professionals are able to take over.
What constitutes “Gross Negligence”?
To be indifferent to the danger of your choices in an emergency or to exhibit recklessness in your handling of a situation that has no regard for the safety of others or the victim constitutes gross negligence. In legal terms, it is a willful act done with extreme disregard for those around you, including the person you are seeking to care for.
When responding to an emergency and taking no thought for your actions, or for the safety of those around you, you could be guilty of gross negligence; something Good Samaritan Laws do not protect.
What are the Good Samaritan Laws in my state?
Below is a summary of each Good Samaritan Law listed by state. Click on the title of any law to see the full law written in legal terms.
Summary of All Good Samaritan Laws by State
Alabama: § 6-5-332: A person shall not be help liable when rendering emergency care, in good faith and without compensation, to someone appear to suffer or is suffering from cardiac arrest. This includes the use of an AED. Should that care result in further injury or death, the person is immune from civil liability. This immunity extends to the persons or persons involved in the placement of the AED, the person who provided training, and the owner or person responsible for the site the AED is located.
Alaska: Sec. 09.65.090: A person present at a hospital or any other location who renders emergency care or emergency counseling to a person who reasonably appears to be in immediate need of emergency care in order to avoid serious harm or death is no held liable for civil damages.
Arizona: § 32-1471: Healthcare providers licensed in the state or elsewhere, ambulance attendant, driver or pilot, or any other person who renders emergency care in good faith at a public gathering without the promise of compensation shall not be held liable for any civil or other damages as a result of the care.
Arkansas: 17-95-101: Anyone who is present at an emergency or accident and believes that the life, health, and safety of an injured person is under imminent threat of danger could be aided by emergency procedures and acts on that believe in good faith to lessen or remove the treat is not held liable unless the act was not in good faith or was the result of gross negligence or willful misconduct.
California: § 1799.102: No person who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders medical or nonmedical care at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for civil damages resulting from any act or omission. The scene of an emergency shall not include emergency departments or other medical facilities where medical care is usually provided. The intent is to encourage individuals who volunteer, without compensation, to assist others in need of during an emergency.
Colorado: 13-21-108: Anyone (licensed medical professional, layperson, etc) who renders emergency care in good faith to a person not present his/her patient at the place of an emergency or accident, including a health care institution, shall not be held liable for any civil damages for that care made in good faith. This section shall not apply to any person who renders such emergency care or emergency assistance to a patient he is otherwise obligated to cover.
Connecticut: § 52-557b: A medical professional licensed to practice medicine in the United States or a medical technician or a person who is CPR certified by the American Red Cross or American Heart Association shall not be held liable for civil damages when voluntarily providing emergency medical or professional assistance to a person in need. This does not apply to acts or omissions constituting gross, willful, or wanton negligence.
Delaware: § 6801: Any person who voluntarily, without the expectation of compensation from the person aided or treated, renders emergency care or rescue assistance to a person who is unconscious, ill, injured or in need of rescue assistance, or any person in obvious physical distress or discomfort shall not be liable for damages for injuries or death to such person for act or omission in rendering care, unless injury or death was the result of willful, reckless, or gross negligence.
Florida: § 768.13: Anyone who renders emergency care in good faith and without expectation of compensation is not held liable when doing so in an emergency situation including a public health emergency, state of emergency, or the scene of an emergency outside of a medical facility, as long as the injured party was in agreement to receive such care. Person rendering care must in as an ordinary responsible prudent person would have acted under the same or similar circumstances.
Georgia: § 51-1-29 : Any person, including those licensed to practice medicine, who renders emergency care at the scene of an accident or emergency to the victim or victims, without expectation of compensation, shall not be held liable for any civil damages as the result of any act or omission by such person rendering care or as a result of any act or failure to act to provide or arrange for further medical treatment or care for the injured person.
Hawaii: § 663-1.5: Any person who in good faith renders emergency care, without remuneration or expectation of remuneration, at the scene of an accident or emergency to a victim of the accident or emergency shall not be liable for any civil damages resulting from the person’s acts or omissions, except for such damages as may result from the person’s gross negligence or wanton acts or omissions.
The statute also covers licensed physicians who attempt to help outside their scope of employment and render emergency care in good faith in a hospital to a person who is in immediate danger or loss of life without expectation of compensation, if the medical professional exercises standard of care expected of similar physicians under similar circumstances.
Idaho: § 5-330: No civil damages in any court in the state of Idaho shall be held against any person or group of person who, in good faith, provides emergency care while at or stopping at the scene of an accident unless it can be shown that the person or persons who provided care has done so in a grossly negligent manner.
Illinois: § 745 ILCS 49/67: Any person current certified in first aid by the American Red Cross, the American Heart Association, or the National Safety Council, shall be held liable for damages when providing first aid in good faith without fee or promise of compensation, except when willful and gross negligence has occurred on the part of the person rendering aid.
Indiana: 34-30-12-1: A person who comes upon the scene of an emergency or accident, or is summoned to the scene of an emergency or accident, and, in good faith, renders emergency care without expectation of compensation, is immune from civil liability for any personal injury that results from: any act or omission by the person in rendering care; or any act or failure to act to provide or arrange for further medical treatment or care for the injured person; except for acts or omissions amounting to gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.
Iowa: 613.17: Any person who renders emergency care in good faith without compensation shall not be liable for any civil damages unless emergency acts constitute recklessness.
Kansas: 65-2891: Provides immunity for health care providers who render emergency care in good faith, without compensation, at the scene of an accident or emergency including the treatment of a minor without first seeking the consent of a parent or guardian except in the cases of gross negligence.
Kentucky: KRS § 311.668: Provides immunity from civil liability for anyone who uses an AED, in good faith and without compensation, to a person in need. The immunity extends to the owner of the site the AED is present at, as well as the person or persons involved in its placement. It does not apply to personal injury results from gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct of the person rendering care.
Louisiana: § 9:2793: No person who in good faith, without compensation, renders emergency care, rescue at the scene of an emergency, or moves a person receiving such care, shall be liable for civil damages from the emergency act. It does not exempt those individuals who intentionally or by grossly negligent acts or omissions cause damages to another person.
Maine: § 164: Any person who voluntarily, without the expectation of compensation, renders first aid, emergency care, or rescue assistance to someone who is unconscious, ill, injured, or in need of rescue assistance, shall be held liable for damages for injuries sustained by such person or for damages for the death of such person except when it is established that such injuries or such death were caused willfully or recklessly or by gross negligence on the part of the person rendering care.
Maryland: § 5-603: A person rendering emergency care is not held liable for damages if the assistance or care is provided in a reasonably prudent manner, without compensation, and the person rendering care relinquishes care of the victim when a state-licensed, or certified, medical professional becomes available.
Massachusetts: § 12V: Any person, whose usual and regular duties do not include the provision of emergency medical care, and who, in good faith, attempts to render emergency care including, but not limited to, CPR, or defibrillation, and does so without compensation, shall not be liable for acts or omissions, other than gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct, resulting from the attempt to render such emergency care.
Michigan: § 691.1504: Individuals in Michigan do not have the responsibility or duty to respond to an accident or emergency. Those who do so in good faith and voluntarily administer CPR or an AED are not liable for civil action for damages resulting from an act except when such constitutes gross negligence.
Minnesota: 604A.01: In Minnesota, any person who comes across the scene of an emergency who knows that another person is in grave physical harm shall, to the extent that the person can do so without danger or peril to self or others, give reasonable assistance to the exposed person, including obtaining or attempting to obtain aid from law enforcement or medical personnel. A person who violates this subdivision is guilty of a petty misdemeanor.
That person who, without compensation, renders such emergency care, advice, or assistance, is not liable for any civil damages as a result of such care unless the person acts in gross negligence.
Mississippi: § 73-25-37: Any person who in good faith, with or without compensation, renders emergency care or treatment by the use of an automated external defibrillator (AED) in accordance with the provisions of Sections 1 through 3 of this act, shall be immune from civil liability for any personal injury as a result of that care or treatment, or as a result of any act, or failure to act, in providing or arranging further medical treatment, where the person acts as an ordinary, reasonably prudent person would have acted under the same or similar circumstances and the person’s actions or failure to act does not amount to willful or wanton misconduct or gross negligence.
Missouri: § 537.037: Any other person who has been trained to provide first aid through a standard recognized training program may, without expectation of compensation, render emergency care or assistance to the level at which he or she has been trained, at the scene of an emergency or accident, and shall not be liable for civil damages other than damages by gross negligence by such person in rendering emergency care.
Montana: 27-1-714: Anyone who in good faith renders emergency care or assistance without compensation at the scene of an emergency or accident is not liable for any civil damages for acts other than acts by gross negligence.
Nebraska: 25-21,186: Anyone who renders emergency care at the scene of an emergency or accident without compensation shall not be held liable for any civil damages as a result of act or omission.
Nevada: 41.500: Any person in Nevada who renders emergency care or assistance in an emergency, without compensation and in good faith, is not liable for civil damages except in cases of gross negligence.
New Hampshire: 508:12: If any person renders emergency care during an emergency, to a victim of a crime or delinquent act, in transit by rescue vehicle, or to a person in urgent need of care as the result of an emergency or crime they are not held liable to civil damages as long as they receive no direct compensation for care from or on behalf of the person cared for. All persons shall have the duty to place said injured person under the care of a physician, nurse, or another qualified person as soon as possible.
New Jersey: § 2A:62A-1: Any individual, including those medically licensed or trained volunteers, who in good faith render emergency care at the scene of an accident or emergency shall not be liable for any civil damages as a result of care.
New Mexico: § 24-10-3: No person who, in good faith, comes to the aid or rescue of another person by providing care or assistance at or near an emergency shall be held liable for civil damages as the result of any action for providing care except in cases of gross negligence.
New York: § 3000-a: Any person who voluntarily and without expectation of monetary compensation renders first aid or emergency treatment at the scene of an accident or other type of emergency that is outside a medical facility to a person in need shall not be liable for damages for injuries from care, unless it is established that such injuries or death was caused by gross negligence on the part of the person rendering care.
North Carolina: § 20-166: Any person who renders first aid or emergency assistance at the scene of a motor vehicle accident on any street or highway to any person injured as a result of the accident, shall not be liable in civil damages for any acts or omissions relating to the services rendered, unless the acts or omissions amount to gross negligence.
North Dakota: 32-03.1-02: No person who renders aid or assistance necessary or helpful in the circumstances to other persons who have been injured or are ill as the result of an accident or illness, or any mechanical, external or organic trauma, may be named as a defendant or held liable in any personal injury civil action by any party in this state for acts or omissions arising out of a situation in which emergency aid or assistance is rendered, unless it is plainly alleged in the complaint and later proven that such person’s acts or omissions constituted intentional misconduct or gross negligence.
Ohio: § 2305.23: No person shall be held liable for administering emergency care or treatment at the scene of an emergency outside of a medical facility unless such acts constitute gross negligence.
Oklahoma: § 765: Where no prior contractual relationship exists, any person who in good faith renders or attempts to render emergency care consisting of artificial respiration, restoration of breathing, or preventing or retarding the loss of blood, or aiding or restoring heart action or circulation of blood to the victim or victims of an accident or emergency, wherever required, shall not be liable for any civil damages as a result of any acts or omissions by such person in rendering the emergency care.
Oregon: 30.800: No person may be held liable for injury or death that results while rendering emergency medical assistance unless it is alleged and proved by the complaining party that the person was grossly negligent in rendering the emergency medical assistance.
Pennsylvania: § 8332: Any person who renders emergency care at the scene of an emergency, or moves the person receiving care, shall not be held liable to such person for and civil damages for any acts or omissions in rendering the care, rescue, or moving the person, except when any acts are intentionally designed to harm or grossly negligent acts or omissions which result in harm to the person receiving care.
Rhode Island: § 9-1-27.1: No person who voluntarily and without compensation renders emergency assistance to a person in need of care shall not be held liable for civil damages. This immunity does not apply to acts or omissions constituting gross negligence.
South Carolina: § 15-1-310: A person, who in good faith renders emergency care at the scene of accident or emergency, can not be held liable for any civil damages for personal injury as a result of care unless proven that the act amounts to gross negligence or willful and wanton misconduct.
South Dakota: § 20-9-4.4: Civil immunity is granted for emergency use or nonuse of an AED. Any person, who in good faith obtains, uses, attempts to use, or chooses not to use an AED in providing emergency care or treatment, is immune from civil liability for any injury as a result of such emergency care or treatment or as a result of an act or failure to act in providing or arranging such medical treatment.
Tennessee: 63-6-218: Any person, including licensed and certified medical professionals, who in good faith renders emergency care at the scene of accident, medical emergency, or disaster, including the use of an AED, or participates or assists in rendering such care, shall not be liable for civil damages as a result of care given, except where such damages result from gross negligence.
Texas: § 74.152: When a person, who is not licensed or certified in healing arts, in good faith administers emergency care they are not liable for administering care unless the act is willfully or wantonly negligent.
Utah: § 78-11-22: A person who renders emergency care at or near the scene of, or during an emergency, in good faith and with expectation of compensation, is not liable for civil damages or penalties as a result of any act or omission by the person rendering the emergency care, unless the person is grossly negligent or caused the emergency.
Vermont: 519(a): A person who knows that another is exposed to grave physical harm shall, to the extent that care can be rendered without danger or peril to himself or herself, and without interference with important duties owed to others, give reasonable assistance to the exposed person unless that assistance is already being provided by others. Such a person can not be held liable for damages.
Virginia: § 8.01-225: Any person who renders emergency are in good faith and without compensation to any ill or injured person at the scene of an accident, fire, or life-threatening emergency, shall not be held liable for civil damages for the acts or omissions resulting from such care or assistance.
Washington: § 4.24.300: Any person who renders emergency care at the scene of an emergency, without compensation, shall not be liable for civil damages resulting from any act or omission in the rendering of such care, other than acts or omissions that constitute gross negligence.
West Virginia: § 55-7-15: No person, including a person licensed to practice medicine or dentistry, who in good faith renders emergency care at the scene of an accident or to a victim at the scene of a crime, without compensation, shall be liable for any civil damages as the result of any act or omission in rendering such emergency care.
Wisconsin: 895.48: Any person who, in good faith, renders care at the scene of an emergency or accident is immune from civil liability for his or her acts or omissions in rendering such care. This does not extend to those who render emergency care for compensation when rendering care within the scope of their usual and customary employment at a medical facility, at the scene of an emergency, or other circumstances.
Wyoming: § 1-1-120: Any person, including those licensed in the State of Wyoming, who in good faith renders emergency care or assistance without compensation at the scene of an emergency are not liable for civil damages.
Washington D.C.: § 7-401: Any person who in good faith renders emergency medical care or assistance to an injured person at the scene of an accident or other emergency in the District of Columbia outside of a hospital, without the expectation of compensation from such injured person for such service, shall not be liable in civil damages except for those constituting gross negligence.