Claim Queue By SuSAN MASSMANN, CPCu
GOOD SAMARITAN LAWS
When Kind Intentions Lead to Tragic Results
Recently, the local news reported that a man’s car ran out of gas on a busy bridge right before rush hour one morning. He pulled his car to the side of the road, but the narrow shoulder prevented him from moving it completely off the road. Another motorist stopped to help him by blocking traffic.
There are many feel-good accounts of strangers coming to the aid of those in distress,
but unfortunately these stories do not always end on a positive note. In this case,
the stalled driver asked the considerate
motorist if he had a gas can, but another
vehicle struck the motorist’s car, knocking
the man whose car had run out of gas into
the river below. He did not survive.
the classes of people protected by the law
are not the same in every state. Some
limit the immunity to emergency aid in
specific locations, while other states limit
the immunity to aid exercised according
to specific standards of conduct. All states
have at least two common requirements:
the emergency care must be provided in
good faith and without the expectation of
Good Samaritan laws offer several
items for courts to consider when a legal challenge arises. Because the laws
all speak of some standard of care, the
courts must look at the care provided by
the good Samaritan, determining if it was
reasonable and did not represent a case of
gross negligence. Additionally, the courts
must decide whether the care was given
under emergency or life-threatening circumstances that were not created by the
person providing the care.
The courts must also verify whether
the aid was administered without any objection from the person being helped. Finally, a determination must be made as to
whether the care is covered by the good
Samaritan statute. For example, those individuals who by the nature of their work
have a preexisting duty to render aid to an
injured person are not covered.
While we often think of strangers as
playing the role of good Samaritan, the
laws can apply to friends, acquaintances,
coworkers, and family members who
provide assistance purely out of the kindness of their hearts.
Depending on the
may find some
A Helping Hand
We often refer to a stranger who stops to
help a person in need as a good Samaritan. While the motorist in this story was not responsible for the fate of the man who died, sometimes good intentions can lead to tragic
results for which liability exists. This is where good Samaritan laws may come into play.
Currently, all 50 states and the District of Columbia have good Samaritan statutes.
These statutes often pertain to providing emergency care and vary by state. For instance,
A Family Affair
An unreported case earlier this
year from Wisconsin illustrates how a
good Samaritan law can be applied in
a negligence case. The court found the
grandparents in the case to be “causally
negligent” for worsening injuries their
grandson sustained when he did not
receive prompt medical attention for an
eye injury. The grandparents’ homeowners’ insurer, Trade Lake, then appealed
in Wilson v. Trade Lake Mut. Ins. Co.,
797 N. W.2d 934.