When an emergency happens, the first responders that arrive at the scene are protected by the Good Samaritan law. This protection is not extended to emergency-room staff. Instead, it provides legal protection to those who are first to respond to an emergency in a volunteer or professional capacity, such as firefighters, ambulance crews, and paramedics.
The Good Samaritan Law
In general, people are not legally obligated to help in an emergency. The Good Samaritan Law is a state law designed to encourage people to help someone in need of emergency care and to keep emergency services intact. Due to malpractice lawsuits, some first responders may feel reluctant to intervene for fear of being sued later on for an unintentional injury or death.
The Good Samaritan Law states that as long as the first responder provides reasonable care to the person in need of medical attention, they are not otherwise held accountable for mistakes the same way hospitals and hospital staff are. Since emergencies often require quick responses and on-the-spot treatment for patient survival, the law recognizes that the chances for error are higher than in a normal hospital setting.
Managing an Emergency
When first responders arrive at the scene of an emergency, it is good practice to approach the injured person and ask permission to provide care. If the person is unable to communicate due to unconsciousness, it is expected that the first responders will assume a duty to rescue and that consent is implied. Thus, any life-saving measures or care should be initiated accordingly.
Exceptions to the Protection of the Good Samaritan Law
There are exceptions to the protection the Good Samaritan Law provides to first responders. In the event that a first responder behaves with gross negligence or recklessness and causes further injury or death to the person in need of medical attention, then accountability will be assigned to the negligent party. Negligence is gauged by the determination of whether another person of the same skill and education in similar circumstances would have responded in the same way or not. Protection may also be affected if the first responder helped with the intention of collecting a financial reward instead of providing care out of kindness.
The Bottom Line
People in emergency situations require immediate medical attention. First responders play an important part of providing care to a patient. The Good Samaritan Law protects first responders from mistakes made during emergency care. Exceptions to the immunity include:
- Blatant reckless behavior
- Gross negligent behavior
- Behavior that causes intentional harm
The attorneys at Carey, Danis & Lowe have experience in malpractice law. They know the fine line between a legally forgivable mistake and medical negligence. If you have been injured and aren’t sure which laws apply to your case, call us today or fill out our online contact form for a consultation with Carey, Danis & Lowe. They care about your rights.