Advantages of Good Samaritan Laws

By Geoffrey St. Marie

If you are injured and need immediate help, it may be comforting to know that any off-duty health professional in the vicinity may be able to help you before on-duty services arrive. However, in some cases, these professionals have been subjected to lawsuits on account of their efforts. Good Samaritan laws aim to remedy this threat and help victims receive aid.

Basics

The general purpose of a good Samaritan law is to ensure that people, acting in good faith and hoping to help a fellow citizen, cannot be sued if damages result at the scene of an accident or emergency because of the care they administer. This is of course dependent on the fact that that person acted dutifully and responsibly throughout the episode and did not expose the victim to any unnecessary or aggravated risk. In this way, good Samaritan laws provide a mechanism through which medical and health professionals need not be afraid of litigious action when they attempt to help in an emergency.

Professionalism

Though the specific contours of any good Samaritan law vary depending on the state in which they are located, there are usually aspects of the laws that regulate the activity of the Samaritans themselves. In this sense, any responder (Samaritan) who is an actual health professional has to live up to the professional standards of the field they serve regardless of the fact that they are not officially on the job. They must follow through with all the aspects of care as if they were in that professional environment, thus ensuring that good Samaritan laws do not sanction under-par or crude medical attention.

Legal Recourse

While good Samaritan laws offer important protections for health and/or emergency professionals, they do not offer a "get out of jail free card" if the individual does not act in a safe and appropriate manner. Quite the contrary, if the behaviors of the responder can be deemed reckless these laws leave ample room for legitimate lawsuits to be pursued by the victim or their families. Additionally, as the Law Info website states, good Samaritan laws are anchored in state statutes and will not rescue a negligent individual from civil liability on the federal level.

Case Studies

In some locations, good Samaritan laws can go even further, to the extent that they duty-bind any citizen who comes across a severely injured, incapacitated or otherwise effected victim to help that victim. Minnesota is one state to have issued such a law. However, the law does not force you to assist that victim if the circumstances or environment imperil your own health or safety. In a more philosophical sense, good Samaritan laws seek to accredit the idea that all human beings have a moral obligation to help another in need. Such is the spirit of a similar law in Quebec, Canada, that states "every human being whose life is in peril has the right to assistance."

About the Author

Geoffrey St. Marie began writing professionally in 2010, with his work focusing on topics in history, culture, politics and society. He received his Bachelor of Arts in European history from Central Connecticut State University and his Master of Arts in modern European history from Brown University.