THE “GOOD SAMARITAN” LIABILITY FOR VOLUNTARY ACTS ?
A recent news item in New York City showed portions of video from a surveillance camera. Twenty or more people simply passed by a man that was lying on the street. It happened that that man had just saved a woman from a knife wielding attacker and in the scuffle, had himself been attacked. No one stopped to help this man for an hour after the incident, and the “Good Samaritan” eventually died of his wounds for want of a “Good Samaritan” to come to his aid.. Prompt attention would have saved his life.
It is difficult to understand the motivation of anyone that would simply ignore another human being in grave distress. Certainly, however, the public policy in most, , if not all, states, and definitely in New York, is to encourage the performance of life saving acts. To this end, there is a “Good Samaritan” law (Public Health Law, Article 30, Section 3000-a) that specifically establishes protection for anyone acting as a “Good Samaritan.”
The law applies in the following circumstances:
—It applies to ANY person (and NOT just medical personnel)
—The person must act without any expectation of monetary compensation
—The act must take place outside a hospital or other medical facility
Under those circumstances, the person rendering the aid will not be held liable for either injuries or death allegedly caused by any act of that “Good Samaritan” while rendering aid, UNLESS it is determined that the “Good Samaritan” was “grossly negligent” in performing his acts.
What constitutes “Gross Negligence” can differ in different situations. One word of advice, stay within your sphere of abilities. If you have never taken a course in CPR, or learned how to utilize a defibrillator, be reluctant to utilize those capabilities. A first step should always be to seek professional help if available. Most important: the motivation should always be to assist the person in dire distress–and certainly not to render yourself a “hero.”
One more word of advice: No one is required to lend assistance–unless, of course, you are responsible for the dire situation in which the injured party finds him or herself. If, however, the decision is made to assist someone, the injured person must not be left in a worsened condition than before the assistance began. So, if you decide to take an injured person to a hospital and, after driving a block you decide you’d rather not do it, for whatever reason, you cannot simply dump the person in the middle of a street where traffic now becomes a real hazard in addition to whatever injury the person sustained.