Good Samaritan Laws
If you are anything like me the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the term Good Samaritan Law is the series finale of Seinfeld. If you do not have my addiction to late night reruns of Seinfeld then I will share the basic premise of the episode: In that episode Jerry and his friends witness a person in need of help and rather than lend assistance, in typical Seinfeld fashion, choose to mock and ridicule the person in need of help. The group then gets charged with a criminal offense under the Good Samaritan Law for not lending a hand to a person in need of help. Whether you saw the episode or not you may be thinking can this really happen.
The short answer is yes, it is possible, although only in a few states, and it almost never does happen. In reality, every state has some form of a Good Samaritan Law, however only a very few states impose a criminal penalty if you fail to help someone in need.
What is a Good Samaritan Law?
The most common type of Good Samaritan Law is law that provides someone with immunity from civil liability (a lawsuit) if you go to someone’s aid who is in need of help. The law provides protection even if you are in fact negligent and do something to the person accidentally that causes injury. Here is a typical scenario where a Good Samaritan Law would protect you:
You arrive at the scene of an accident and see someone who is not breathing. You go to that person and attempt CPR. While performing CPR you accidentally break the person’s rib. While had you performed the CPR properly you would not have broken the person’s rib, that person may not sue you for the injury as the Good Samaritan Law protects you from that lawsuit.
Most of the laws were enacted to encourage people to lend assistance to those in need. Most people in our society are raised with the belief that you should help those in need. However, in our lawsuit happy world sometimes people are reluctant to help if they are not sure what to do. The Good Samaritan Laws try to alleviate the fear of lawsuits for those who render aid.
Does Arizona Have a Good Samaritan Law?
Yes. In January 2018 Arizona became the 41st state to adopt a Good Samaritan law which is contained in Arizona Revised Statutes §32-1471. The law provides that any person who renders aid at the scene of an emergency is not liable for any damages as a result of an act or omission so long as the care was provided: 1) in good faith; 2) for no money or other consideration; and 3) the person was not grossly negligent. If these conditions are met there will be no liability for any problems that arise.
Do The Laws Apply to Medical Providers?
The Good Samaritan laws do provide protection for physicians, nurses, and emergency responders under the same circumstances as regular individuals in Arizona. Most other states also have similar conditions for the law to apply to medical professionals. The law will thus protect a nurse or doctor who happens upon a scene and provides medical help and does not collect a fee, but would not apply to healthcare providers who arrived with an ambulance and billed for the services rendered.
Does Arizona impose Criminal Liability for Failing to Help?
No. Arizona’s Good Samaritan Law does not impose a duty to help people or criminal liability for failure to act. So technically you can act like Jerry and the gang and not go to jail. However, hopefully you would choose to help someone in need, especially as there is no fear that you will be sued if you do not know exactly what to do.