Most Americans are familiar with the fable of the “Good Samaritan,” which tells of a man who renders aid to a wounded stranger. Many American lawmakers have created “Good Samaritan” laws designed to encourage citizens to go out of their way to help others by protecting these individuals from suffering legal repercussions due to their desire to help.
This may sound counterintuitive: if someone wants to help an injured person, why should the helper fear legal retaliation for trying to render aid? Put simply, the average passerby more than likely does not have emergency response or medical training and could very easily make an injured person’s situation worse unintentionally. Additionally, some “Good Samaritans” would essentially have to sacrifice their Fifth Amendment protection against self-incrimination to report a serious accident such as a drug overdose.
Good Samaritan laws allow individuals in these situations to render potentially life-saving aid without fear of legal ramifications.
Why Good Samaritan Laws Are Important
There are numerous situations in which a well-intentioned passerby can make the difference between life and death for an injured or otherwise imperiled person. However, various reasons deter such individuals from acting when given the chance. Primarily, these would-be Samaritans fear facing legal liability for trying to help.
For example, imagine a person mugs another person and throws the victim to the ground, injuring his or her head. A passerby stops and attempts to help the victim to his or her feet. The victim’s head injury caused disorientation, and the victim stumbles back to the ground, suffering further injury. In this situation, the helper could face liability for the resulting injury.
Consider one more example. A group of heroin users are gathered to dose with one another. One of the group starts to display signs of an overdose. The others in the group may be hesitant to call 911 for an ambulance, assuming the police would simply arrest them as soon as they arrive. The 911 Good Samaritan Act allows people to secure help for drug overdoses without the risk of prosecution. This limited immunity is important considering the extremely high numbers of drug overdoses in recent years, as it encourages people to help others and prevent overdose deaths.
Special Notes for Medical Professionals
Although Good Samaritan laws essentially apply to everyone, they do seem to focus on protecting medical professionals who may otherwise pass by a seriously injured person without rendering aid out of fear that the victim would sue. Florida’s Good Samaritan laws encourage such individuals to help as much as possible, given the chance. The only way medical professionals could face liability in these situations is if they act with “reckless disregard,” or engage in any conduct that a qualified and reasonable medical professional of equivalent standing would deem unacceptable in the situation.
Know Your Rights
If you’re a medical professional in Florida or if you’ve been involved in any type of “Good Samaritan” situation recently, it’s vital to connect with an attorney who can represent you in the event of a lawsuit. Florida’s Good Samaritan laws prevent citizens from facing legal liability unless they fail to exercise reasonable care when rendering aid or make the victim’s injury worse. It’s important to protect your rights if you’ve been involved in drug-related activity and faced trouble from law enforcement after trying to help.
No one should suffer legal trouble out of a genuine desire to help another person. If you acted in good faith to render aid to an injured or imperiled stranger who then tries to sue you or you reported an overdose and face drug charges, speak to a qualified attorney as soon as possible