When you encounter an emergency situation, you may try to act as a Good Samaritan and help any injured victims instead of walking away from the scene. However, our actions may end up causing more harm than good—which often opens us up to civil liability. In these situations, California’s Good Samaritan laws can protect you from civil repercussions and allow you to render aid instead of worrying about potential litigation.
Who Qualifies As a Good Samaritan in California?
Under California Health and Safety Code Section 1799.102, a Good Samaritan is a person who renders emergency care to another and acts in good faith. A Good Samaritan provides this care without expecting compensation for his or her actions. As a result, this person will not face civil liability for any actions or omissions that may occur while providing aid.
Good Samaritan laws are important for several reasons. When someone is injured, it can take a long time for medical personnel to arrive at the scene. In these situations, emergency care from bystanders could increase the victim’s chances of survival. With Good Samaritan laws in place, bystanders have the opportunity to help others without worrying about potential liability, protecting both parties in an emergency situation.
Civil versus Criminal Liability
California’s Good Samaritan law protects bystanders from civil liability or paying for a victim’s economic and non-economic damages if they harm someone while providing aid. If a person sustains an injury due to the actions of another, he or she may file a lawsuit against the person responsible for the injury to recover compensatory damages related to his or her losses. These damages may include the following.
- Past and future medical expenses
- Lost wages and loss of future earnings
- Property damage
- Chronic pain, disability, and disfigurement
- Post-traumatic stress disorder
- Disability accommodations
- Depression and anxiety
- Loss of quality of life
If a bystander renders aid in good faith, he or she will be exempt from civil liability if his or her actions injure the victim. However, California’s Good Samaritan law does not provide exemptions for criminal liability. If a bystander commits a crime while rendering aid, such as stealing the victim’s wallet or committing sexual assault, he or she can still face criminal charges for this act.
Exemptions to the Good Samaritan Law
Protection under California’s Good Samaritan laws does not apply to situations involving gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct. Gross negligence refers to a lack of any care while providing aid, or a departure from what a reasonably careful person would do in the same situation. On the other hand, willful and wanton misconduct involves an intentional or reckless disregard for others’ safety.
For example, if a bystander encounters a person who is injured in a car accident and pulls him or her out of the vehicle, he or she will not be liable if he or she accidentally breaks the victim’s leg while dragging the victim to safety. However, if the bystander pulls the victim out of the vehicle and abandons the victim in the middle of the road, he or she may be liable for any injuries that occur.
If you are injured due to a Good Samaritan’s actions or are facing liability for providing aid to another person, it is important to speak to an attorney as soon as possible. A California personal injury lawyer can evaluate your case and identify your optimal legal options. Contact an attorney as soon as possible to discuss your case.