In general, Good Samaritan laws exist to protect people who act in good faith while administering aid to those in need. If you stop at an accident scene to address someone’s wound or attempt to move someone from a fiery building, for example, you are acting as a Good Samaritan. Every state uses its own set of laws to protect these people from legal liability for injuries that result from the act of aid.
Texas Good Samaritan Laws
In Texas, the Civil Practice and Remedies Code § 74.151-152 addresses liability for emergency care. The section relieves anyone who offers emergency care in good faith from civil liability for damages that occur during the emergency. If you use a portable automated external defibrillator (AED) at the mall to revive a heart attack victim or try to help someone even though you don’t have a license to practice, you will not face liability for your efforts.
Certain exceptions to the rule do exist. The law does not protect:
- Those who cause harm through purposeful acts or wanton negligence.
- Professionals who expect payment for their services.
- Anyone at the scene who solicits business/to perform a paid service.
- The person or people responsible for the accident/injury.
In practice, the Good Samaritan laws in Texas encourage people to help others without fear of reprisal. Without Good Samaritan laws, good people might stand by and do nothing to help those in need because they fear a lawsuit.
Examples of the Good Samaritan Law in Action
Texas laws will generally protect those who act in good faith during the following situations:
- A bystander administers CPR to a heart attack victim but accidentally breaks a rib in the process.
- Someone sees a suffering baby locked in a car on a hot day and breaks the window to help the child.
- Someone moves a car accident victim from a burning vehicle that later explodes but the move exacerbates a spinal cord injury.
- Someone dives into a lake to save a drowning victim but hits the victim during the recovery process and causes a concussion.
In each of these cases, interveners acted selflessly to protect someone they perceived to be in danger. Under the current laws, most courts would absolve these examples of any financial liability for harm done. If, however, a pedestrian fainted in the middle of a crosswalk and a bystander dragged him/her to the sidewalk by the hair, there may be a liability. Intentions, actions, and qualifications determine Good Samaritan status.
Become a Good Samaritan
Anyone can act as a Good Samaritan, with or without training. Some people choose to take classes in the community to strengthen their caregiving skills and decrease the risk of a liability claim.
First Aid, CPR, and AED classes will teach you how to properly administer basic emergency services, so you can act confidently at the scene of an accident or emergency. Knowing how to bandage wounds, perform CPR, administer the Heimlich maneuver, and move someone with a head or neck injury may not only save a life but also prevent injuries from worsening before emergency personnel arrives.
Legal Claims and Good Samaritan Laws
While Good Samaritan laws protect those who act in good faith to help others, the laws will not stop lawsuits altogether. If the injured individual can prove the defendant met one of the exceptions to state laws, he or she may receive compensation for the defendant’s careless or willful actions.
If you believe a so-called Good Samaritan caused you more harm than help, talk to a Houston personal injury attorney about your legal options. Depending on the situation, you may have the right to file a claim against the person who worsened or caused your injuries. Good Samaritan status is not an umbrella term that saves all bystanders from legal responsibility. It only protects those who act in good faith.