The Good Samaritan Law in Texas provides legal protection to people who voluntarily help someone who is injured or in danger. The intention behind this law is to encourage people to help others in emergency situations without the fear of legal repercussions (being sued), should their efforts unintentionally cause harm.
Specifically, the Texas Good Samaritan Law states that a person who in good faith administers emergency care is not liable for civil damages for an act performed during the emergency. This includes providing assistance at the scene of an emergency, such as a traffic accident, choking incident, or drowning scare.
However, it’s important to understand that this protection does not apply universally. For example, the law does not protect individuals if they expect to be remunerated (paid) for their assistance, or if they fall into another exception outlined in the statute.
In this article, our experienced Texas personal injury attorneys explain the Good Samaritan Law in general, as well as the specific Good Samaritan Law in Texas and exceptions to the general rule. We also offer examples of good samaritan acts and how people who act in good faith can avoid financial liability for any harm done.
What is the Good Samaritan Law in General?
The Good Samaritan Law, broadly speaking, offers legal protection to people who voluntarily provide assistance to those who are injured, ill, in danger, or otherwise incapacitated. The main purpose of these laws is to encourage bystanders to assist others in emergency situations without fear of being sued for unintentional injury or wrongful death.
Key points about Good Samaritan Laws in general:
Intent: These laws are designed to protect well-meaning individuals who are trying to help, not those who may cause harm due to gross negligence or malicious intent. Good Samaritan Law offers protection from legal liability to individuals who provide aid in emergency situations. This means that if someone attempts to help in good faith, they cannot be held legally responsible for any harm that may occur as a result of their actions.
Medical Professionals: In some jurisdictions, Good Samaritan Laws may have specific provisions regarding off-duty medical professionals. While they might be held to a higher standard given their training, they often still receive protection when providing emergency aid outside of their regular work environment.
No Compensation: Generally, the protections provided by the Good Samaritan Law apply when the assistance is given without expectation of monetary compensation.
Varies by Jurisdiction: The specifics of Good Samaritan Laws can vary widely by states. Some laws may provide broad protections, while others might be more limited.
Limitations: These laws do not provide blanket immunity. If a person’s actions are deemed reckless, grossly negligent, or intentional, they might still face liability.
Scope: Good samaritan laws often apply to a range of scenarios, from providing CPR to pulling someone from a burning vehicle. However, the exact situations covered can differ by jurisdiction.
It’s important to be familiar with the specific Good Samaritan Law in your state and to act with the best intentions when trying to help others.
What is the Good Samaritan Law in Texas?
The Good Samaritan Law in Texas is designed to protect individuals who voluntarily provide emergency assistance when they come across someone who is injured or in danger. Its primary goal is to encourage bystanders to assist others in emergencies without fear of potential legal repercussions if their assistance unintentionally leads to harm.
The law is codified under Section 74.151 of Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code, which states a person “who in good faith administers emergency care is not liable in civil damages for an act performed during the emergency” if he or she:
Acts in Good Faith
When the law refers to acting in “good faith,” it means that the individual is genuinely trying to help without any ulterior motives or intentions to cause harm. In the context of the Good Samaritan Law in Texas, if someone genuinely believes they are assisting in an emergency situation and has the best interests of the injured or endangered person at heart, they are usually protected from civil liabilities. However, this protection is forfeited if their actions can be characterized as “willfully or wantonly negligent,” suggesting either a deliberate intent to cause harm or a reckless disregard for the safety of others. In other words, genuine mistakes made during a rescue effort are generally protected, but blatant carelessness or intentional harm is not.
Doesn’t Ask for or Expect Remuneration
One of the foundational principles of the Good Samaritan Law in Texas is the notion of selfless assistance. When an individual steps in to help in an emergency situation, their primary motivation should be the well-being and safety of the affected person, not personal gain. As such, the law offers protection to those who act without the expectation of monetary reward or any other form of compensation. If an individual provides assistance with the anticipation of being paid or rewarded for their actions, they risk forfeiting the protections granted under the Good Samaritan Law. In essence, altruistic actions are encouraged and protected, while opportunistic ones are not.
Isn’t at the Scene to Solicit Business
Individuals who arrive at an emergency scene with the primary intention of soliciting business or seeking financial gain aren’t protected by the Good Samaritan Law. This ensures that the law protects genuine acts of kindness and assistance, not opportunistic behaviors.
Doesn’t Purposely Cause Harm
The protection does not extend to acts of willful or wanton negligence. This means if someone’s actions while trying to help are egregiously careless or intentionally harmful, they will not be protected by the law.
Isn’t a Licensed Emergency Responder Working in Professional Capacity
While medical professionals can be protected under this law when they provide emergency care outside their routine employment scope, they are generally held to a higher standard because of their professional training and expertise. For example, police and paramedics specifically called to the scene as part of their job are not considered a “good Samaritan.” However, if a medical professional is at the scene purely by coincidence (not in a professional capacity) and offers assistance, the Good Samaritan protections would generally apply.
Isn’t the Person Responsible for the Accident
Individuals who caused the accident or emergency situation are not typically covered by the Good Samaritan Law’s protections. For instance, if someone causes a car accident and then attempts to render aid to the injured parties, they may still be held liable for the initial harm caused, regardless of their subsequent actions to help. The law is intended to shield those who step in to assist without having played a part in creating the emergency or dangerous situation.
Again, it’s important to understand that, while the Good Samaritan Law offers protection, it does not provide blanket immunity from all potential legal actions. Individuals should always act within their capabilities and knowledge when providing assistance. Always consult with legal counsel for a comprehensive understanding or specific interpretations related to the Texas Good Samaritan Law. The team at Varghese Summersett Injury Law Group is here to help.
Examples of Good Samaritan Acts
In Texas, the Good Samaritan Law encourages bystanders to assist others in emergencies without the fear of potential legal repercussions. Below are some examples of acts that might be protected under the Good Samaritan Law in Texas:
- Car Accidents: A passerby stops to help victims of a car crash by pulling them from the wreckage. In the process, the victim’s leg is inadvertently fractured due to the forceful extraction.
- Choking Incidents: In a restaurant, a person performs the Heimlich maneuver on someone who is choking, but unintentionally cracks a few of their ribs during the attempt.
- Medical Emergencies in Public Places: An individual provides CPR to someone who has collapsed in a shopping mall due to a heart attack, but inadvertently causes a neck injury while positioning the head.
- Drowning: A person rescues someone struggling in a public pool or lake. In the effort to get them to shore, the rescuer accidentally exacerbates the victim’s water inhalation.
- Public Accidents: After witnessing someone trip and injure themselves on a sidewalk, a bystander rushes over to offer assistance and tries to bandage a wound, but accidentally applies too much pressure causing further pain.
- Overdoses: Someone finds a person unresponsive due to a potential overdose and administers naloxone. However, in their haste, they inadvertently cause a minor puncture wound with the injector.
- Heat-Related Emergencies: On a hot Texas day, a person breaks a car window to rescue a child or pet locked inside. Glass shards cause cuts to the child or pet during the rescue.
- Home Accidents: While visiting a neighbor’s house, a guest helps put out a small kitchen fire but accidentally spills water on a nearby electrical outlet, risking an electrical shock.
- Sporting Accidents: During a community baseball game, a player is injured, and a bystander immobilizes the player’s leg with a splint. However, the splint’s placement inadvertently causes circulation problems.
- Public Health Emergencies: During an unforeseen public health emergency, a retired nurse offers assistance in triaging or treating individuals. In the chaos, a person’s allergic reaction is missed, complicating their condition until more help arrives.
What to Do During An Emergency
If you witness an accident or happen upon an emergency, you are encouraged to assist or offer aid to injured parties. The law should protect you from liability under most circumstances. Here are some steps to follow to further protect yourself:
- Being aware of the situation: Stay attentive and vigilant to recognize when someone is in distress or in need of immediate help. This could include situations such as accidents, sudden illnesses, or any other emergency scenario.
- Recognizing your competence: Assess your own skills, knowledge, and abilities to determine if you are capable of providing the necessary assistance. Understanding your limitations is crucial to ensure you don’t put yourself or others at risk.
- Quick response: Act promptly and decisively. Time is often critical in emergencies, so taking immediate action can significantly impact the outcome.
- Calling for help: Contact emergency services such as 911 or the local emergency hotline to notify them about the situation and provide them with accurate information. This step ensures that professional help is on its way.
- Providing basic first aid: If you have received first aid training, administer appropriate techniques to stabilize the injured person’s condition. This may include CPR, stopping bleeding, or applying basic wound care techniques.
- Providing emotional support: In addition to physical aid, offering emotional support can greatly comfort the individuals involved in the emergency. Simple gestures such as staying calm, offering reassurance, and comforting words can make a significant difference.
- Coordinating with emergency responders: Once professional help arrives, communicate the actions you have taken, the status of the person, and any relevant information that could assist in their treatment.
- Documenting the incident: If possible, record the details of the emergency, such as the time, location, individuals involved, and the actions you took to render assistance. This information may be useful later if legal clarification is needed.
By following these steps, people can play a vital role in saving lives and providing support during critical situations without being held legally responsible for any harm that occurs as a result of their actions.
Four Ways to Protect Yourself When Helping Someone in an Emergency
Here are four ways a Good Samaritan can protect themselves during an emergency in Texas:
- Assess the Scene for Safety: Before approaching an emergency, it’s essential to ensure the scene is safe. Whether it’s a traffic accident, fire, or another hazardous situation, a Good Samaritan should avoid putting themselves in direct danger. If the scene appears unsafe, it’s best to wait for professional emergency responders.
2. Act Within Your Knowledge and Skills: Always provide aid that aligns with your personal knowledge and skill set. If you’re not trained in specific emergency techniques, such as CPR, it might be best to limit your assistance to calling 911 or helping in other less technical ways.
3. Avoid Moving the Injured, Unless Necessary: In certain situations, like when a person is in a dangerous position or environment, they might need to be moved. However, if it’s not necessary, it’s generally safer not to move an injured person, especially if you suspect they might have a spinal or neck injury.
4. Always Act in Good Faith and Without Expectation of Compensation: The Texas Good Samaritan Law protects individuals who act without expecting remuneration and in good faith. Ensure that your actions are genuinely for the benefit of the injured or endangered person, without any hidden motives.
Remember, while the intention to help is commendable, ensuring your safety and that of the injured person is paramount. It’s always recommended to take basic emergency response courses, so you are better prepared to act in crisis situations.
Good Samaritan Laws in Texas: Calling 911 and Giving CPR
In Texas, the Good Samaritan Law provides legal protection to individuals who voluntarily offer assistance in an emergency, ensuring they are not held liable for potential unintentional harm that might result from their actions. While the law covers a broad range of emergency assistance, here are specifics related to calling 911 and administering CPR.
The act of calling 911 for someone in distress is generally encouraged and protected. If a person makes the call in good faith, believing that someone is in danger or needs emergency assistance, they typically won’t be held liable if their perception of the situation was mistaken.
This protection does not extend to individuals who make false or prank calls, which are illegal and could lead to prosecution.
Individuals who provide CPR in emergency situations are generally protected from civil liability by the Good Samaritan Law, as long as they act in good faith and without gross negligence. The intention is to encourage bystanders with knowledge of CPR to step in and assist without the fear of legal repercussions if the outcome isn’t favorable.
While professional medical responders are trained to administer CPR and other medical procedures, laypersons are protected if they act according to their level of knowledge and training. However, if someone administers CPR or other emergency aid recklessly or in a way that an average person would deem unreasonable, they might risk legal liability.
Who Does the Good Samaritan Law Protect?
When it comes to the Good Samaritan Law, it’s important to understand who it protects. In this section, we’ll dive into three key categories: individuals providing aid, medical professionals, and organizations/entities.
1. Individuals Providing Aid
In the context of the Good Samaritan Law, the role of regular citizens or bystanders cannot be overlooked. These are often the first responders before any professional help arrives. Here’s how the law views and protects them:
|Protection from Legal Liability
|The law safeguards those individuals who step in to assist during emergencies from potential lawsuits or legal consequences stemming from their efforts to help.
|By alleviating the fear of legal repercussions, the law aims to foster an environment where bystanders are more proactive and willing to assist in critical situations.
|Good Faith and Reasonable Care
|Protection is afforded to those who act in good faith and provide care that is reasonable under the circumstances. This means that while genuine mistakes might be shielded from legal action, any form of recklessness or intentional harm would not be protected.
The heart of the Good Samaritan Law lies in its intention to promote selfless actions for the greater good. For individuals providing aid, it serves as a reminder that their courage and willingness to help in times of crisis are not only appreciated but also legally protected.
2. Medical Professionals
When it comes to the Good Samaritan Law, medical professionals play a crucial role in providing aid and assistance in emergency situations. Let’s take a closer look at how the law protects and guides medical professionals.
|Protection from Legal Liability
|Medical professionals are protected from legal liability when providing medical assistance in emergency situations that are not during their normal scope of employment. This means they generally cannot be sued for any harm caused while attempting to help someone in need if they happen upon an accident off-duty.
|Scope of Medical Assistance
|The Good Samaritan Law covers a wide range of medical assistance provided by medical professionals. This can include administering CPR, basic first aid, stabilizing a patient before professional help arrives, or giving necessary emergency medications.
|Negligence and Liability
|While medical professionals are generally protected from liability, the law does not shield them from gross negligence or reckless behavior. If a medical professional demonstrates willful misconduct or acts beyond their level of training, they may still be held accountable.
It is important for medical professionals to understand the specific state laws and variations in immunity and liability protection that apply to them. Different jurisdictions may have slightly different interpretations of the Good Samaritan Law, so staying informed is crucial to providing the best care while ensuring personal protection.
3. Organizations and Entities
When it comes to the Good Samaritan Law, it is important for organizations and entities to understand how it applies to them. In order to provide a clear understanding, let’s take a look at the table below:
|Organizations and Entities
|Hospitals, as organizations and entities, are protected under the Good Samaritan Law when their medical professionals provide emergency care outside of the hospital premises. For instance, if a hospital organizes a community event and medical professionals from that hospital offer emergency assistance, they, and by extension the hospital, might be protected. This encourages hospitals to extend their assistance beyond their facilities.
|Non-profit organizations, as organizations and entities, that have volunteers providing aid or medical care may also be protected by the Good Samaritan Law. This ensures that these organizations and their volunteers can confidently provide their services without fear of legal liabilities.
|Emergency response teams
|Ambulance services, paramedics, and other emergency response entities generally have their own set of regulations and protections. However, in situations that fall outside their standard operating procedures, the Good Samaritan Law could potentially offer additional protection.
|Schools and educational institutions
|There might be circumstances where staff or teachers provide emergency aid to students or others. In such cases, the Good Samaritan Law might offer protection to the individuals and, indirectly, the institutions they represent.
|Community centers and recreational facilities
|Similar to schools, employees or volunteers in these settings who provide emergency aid might be protected by the Good Samaritan Law. The organizations they represent could also benefit from this protection if a legal claim is made regarding the actions of their personnel.