California’s law doesn’t impose a duty to rescue or assist a person in an emergency or danger. It comes down to a person’s goodwill to offer assistance to that person. Legally speaking, you won’t be held liable for not helping out, and more importantly, a criminal proceeding won’t be filed against you for failure to help a person in danger.
California’s Good Samaritan law was enacted to provide protection against lawsuits for those who try to help others in an emergency situation. This enactment was in line with California’s public policy, which sets out to encourage people to help those in emergency situations.
Here is an overview of California’s Good Samaritan law.
Who is a Good Samaritan Under California Law?
Put simply, a Good Samaritan, as per the law, is an individual who comes to the assistance of another person in an emergency situation or requires help with no intention of receiving compensation or any other reward for acting in this manner. The logic behind the Good Samaritan law is to encourage people to assist others.
Understanding California’s Good Samaritan Law: The Legal Basis
California’s relevant provisions underscoring the Good Samaritan law are codified in Health & Safety code 1799.102. The rationale for introducing this law was to encourage people to help in an emergency situation and, at the same time, ensure that they act responsibly when providing care.
Put briefly, California’s Good Samaritan law shields a person from civil liability for any damages that result from providing emergency care if:
- The person acted in good faith. In other words, the person had not helped the victim expecting compensation
- The person provided medical care or nonmedical care
- The care was provided at the scene of the emergency
- There was no gross negligence or willful or wanton negligence by the person providing care
Noteworthy is that this law doesn’t cover emergency departments or medical care professionals. This is premised on the fact that the law imposes a duty of care on all medical professionals already.
Medical professionals are required to act reasonably when providing medical care in emergency situations. Consequently, if the medical professionals act negligently when providing medical care, the victim has a right to sue for compensation and hold the medical professionals liable.
What Are Gross Negligence and Willful Misconduct Under California’s Samaritan Law?
To avoid being held liable in an emergency situation, a person should not have acted grossly negligent or demonstrated willful or wanton misconduct. What this means is the person won’t be shielded from civil liability of the damages resulting from an act or omission constituting gross negligence or wanton misconduct.
That said, the definition of gross negligence, as per California’s courts, is conduct that denotes a lack of care or failure to act reasonably in a situation where another person would have acted reasonably to prevent harm.
Willful or wanton conduct, on the other hand, denotes an aggravated form of negligence. Typically this occurs if a person acts intentionally, recklessly, and in blatant disregard for a person’s safety.
Understanding Medical and Nonmedical Emergencies
Prior to the enactment of assembly bill 83, the Good Samaritan law only protected a person from civil liability if they rendered medical care. This meant that a person who rendered help to a person but caused significant harm or injury could have been held liable in court.
Indeed, the previous law was controversial and didn’t encourage people to assist others in medical emergencies. As a consequence, the law was amended to include nonmedical care. This means that a person can’t be held liable after providing a form of care during an emergency situation.
Is a “Good Samaritan” protected against criminal liability in California?
The simple answer is no. While the Good Samaritan law is silent on this, courts have adopted a strict interpretation of criminal liability for crimes committed during emergency situations. Put briefly, if a person commits a crime, even after helping another person in an emergency situation, they may be charged with an offense.
In fact, authorities are mandated to arrest and charge the offender for violating the law.
Need Help? Contact a Car Accident Attorney in California Today
If you or your loved one was involved in an accident, you need to act promptly to safeguard your rights and interests. Essentially, having a personal injury attorney is one of the critical steps to ensuring that you are successful in your case.
Attorney Jeff has experience handling personal injury claims in California. We will work hard to ensure that your rights and interests are safeguarded throughout the claim process. You can trust us to provide a breakdown of how the law applies to your case and, at the same time, ensure you make the right decision when seeking compensation as a car accident victim.
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Although the Good Samaritan law sets out to protect a person who offers assistance in an emergency situation from civil liability, it does not protect against acts of gross negligence. There is no obligation imposed by the law requiring you to save someone else’s life in an emergency situation. However, it would be imperative to offer assistance in such a situation. The simple answer is no. This is because nurses are medical professionals who owe a duty of care to others. More importantly, this duty is imposed by law. Therefore, they can be held liable if they act negligently or fail to act reasonably.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What does the Good Samaritan law in California not protect?
Does California law require you to save someone else’s life?
Does the Good Samaritan law in California shield nurses from liability?
Although the Good Samaritan law sets out to protect a person who offers assistance in an emergency situation from civil liability, it does not protect against acts of gross negligence.
There is no obligation imposed by the law requiring you to save someone else’s life in an emergency situation. However, it would be imperative to offer assistance in such a situation.
The simple answer is no. This is because nurses are medical professionals who owe a duty of care to others. More importantly, this duty is imposed by law. Therefore, they can be held liable if they act negligently or fail to act reasonably.