Personal Injury and Good Samaritan Laws

You witness a vehicle crash that has just happened, pull over, and get out of your car to offer help. Then, you hesitate, wondering: Should I get involved at all? I want to help, but what if I end up being sued for unintentionally doing something wrong?  You wonder, am I being too paranoid?
According to all-about-car-accidents.com, “These lawsuits have happened; injured people have actually sued well-intentioned passersby and health care providers who tried to help them.” Fortunately, the legislatures of nearly every state have passed “Good Samaritan” laws that protects passersby who attempts to help the injured.  These well-intentioned people are good for society, and society in turn wants to shield them from liability when all they are doing is trying to help at an accident scene.
Virginia has passed such a law to protect “good Samaritans.”  Virginia code  § 8.01-225 states: “Any person who, In good faith, renders emergency care or assistance, without compensation, to any ill or injured person at the scene of an accident, fire, or any life-threatening emergency, or en route there from to any hospital, medical clinic or doctor’s office, shall not be liable for any civil damages for acts or omissions resulting from the rendering of such care or assistance.” The code goes on to specifically protect certain interventions such as CPR, operating a defibrillator, and other emergency procedures, including transportation of persons to hospitals or other medical facilities.
The law also covers professionals such as certified Ski Patrol members and licensed emergency physicians. Like some other states, Virginia requires that the treatment must have been given voluntarily and without expectation of payment in order for the Good Samaritan health care provider to be protected from liability.

In a dramatic Good Samaritan case in Arizona in January, a passing motorist stopped when he witnessed a car crash victim attacking an Arizona Department of Public Safety trooper, shooting him in the arm and trying to bang his head into the ground.  The unidentified motorist, described as “humble and spiritual,” was armed with a handgun. He told the attacker to stop, and when he refused, shot and killed him to save the trooper’s life, reported the Washington Post.  The trooper was taken to a hospital. The Good Samaritan motorist, who had no professional experience with guns, “knows he did the right thing,” said the Department of Public Safety’s director. “He is trying to reconcile that in his mind, which is difficult to take a life even when you know it’s the right thing to do.”
Craig Follis has extensive experience in litigation, negotiating and settling suits, and providing legal opinions on liability and insurance coverage. You can reach him at (888) 703-0109 or via email at cfollis@lawyersva.com.

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