J&Y Law Firm discusses the good samaritan law in California.

Helping Accident Victims – Understanding California’s Good Samaritan Law

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By Yosi Yahoudai
Founder and Managing Partner

A Good Samaritan is someone who lends a hand in times of need or distress without compensation or personal benefit. However, some individuals were being sued for their actions, even though they were genuinely trying to help. Many states, including California, enacted Good Samaritan laws to try to protect people who voluntarily rendered aid to others in an emergency. Unfortunately, California’s first attempt at a Good Samaritan law was flawed. Changes to the law have expanded the protection, but not in every situation. Our California personal injury attorney discusses the change in the law below.

How Did the Original Good Samaritan Law Change in California?

The original language of the Good Samaritan law stated that no one could be held liable for civil damages for an act or omission that was committed while rendering “emergency care” at the scene of an emergency. A case involving the Good Samaritan law was appealed and heard by the California Court of Appeal.

In that case, an individual had pulled another person from a wrecked vehicle because she thought the vehicle was going to catch fire. The victim alleged that in pulling her from the vehicle, the Good Samaritan caused her paralysis. The court held that the individual offering aid could be sued because the law only applied to individuals who rendered “emergency medical care.” The justices found that in the case at hand, the person did not render “medical care” in pulling the person from the vehicle.

After the above case, lawmakers reworded the Good Samaritan law. The law now includes a person who renders “emergency medical or nonmedical care or assistance.” Lawmakers hoped to broaden the scope of the law to avoid another case like the one described above. However, the Good Samaritan law still excludes some individuals.

The law does not apply to persons who act or omission constitutes “gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.”  Gross negligence is a reckless disregard for the safety of others. A person acting without the slightest amount of care for others could be guilty of gross negligence.

Gray Areas in the Good Samaritan Law

If a Good Samaritan renders medical assistance at an accident scene with the knowledge that he or she has no medical training or experience, is the choice to act in some situations, gross negligence? Could choosing not to render certain aid be considered reckless or grossly negligent? There is still a little room within the statute to argue that a Good Samaritan is liable for damages under some circumstances. However, a Good Samaritan acting in good faith will usually not be liable for civil damages for rendering aid at an accident scene.

Contact a California Personal Injury Attorney for More Information

California’s Good Samaritan law can be difficult to understand. Lawmakers want to encourage people to render aid in an emergency, but they also want to allow victims to hold some individuals liable for that aid. Contact us today for a free consultation with a California personal injury attorney. Our attorneys can review the situation relative to the law to determine if an individual’s action at an accident scene is protected.

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About the Author
Yosi Yahoudai is a founder and the managing partner of J&Y. His practice is comprised primarily of cases involving automobile and motorcycle accidents, but he also represents people in premises liability lawsuits, including suits alleging dangerous conditions of public property, third-party criminal conduct, and intentional torts. He also has expertise in cases involving product defects, dog bites, elder abuse, and sexual assault. He earned his Bachelor of Arts from the University of California and is admitted to practice in all California State Courts, and the United States District Court for the Southern District of California. If you have any questions about this article, you can contact Yosi by clicking here.