California Good Samaritan Law

Being a Good Samaritan describes more than just doing the right thing in your daily life. In California, it is part of the law. California lawmakers passed a Good Samaritan Law to encourage bystanders to intervene to help others in emergencies. This law protects Good Samaritans from liability for providing emergency medical or nonmedical care in most situations.

How Does California’s Good Samaritan Law Work?

California’s Good Samaritan law is in Health and Safety Code Section 1799.102. This law helps people who help people. It encourages action by civilians in emergency situations, such as immediately after a car accident, by protecting them from potential liability for unintentionally making things worse. The code came about in response to a phenomenon in which people would stand by in emergencies instead of helping for fear of being sued by the victim if something went wrong, such as a spinal cord injury because someone moved a car accident victim.

Health and Safety Code 1799.102 states that no person who provides emergency care or services at the scene of an emergency in good faith (and not for pay) shall be liable for damages resulting from this care. The Good Samaritan will not risk liability for the victim’s damages through any action or omission, even if he or she causes injuries or property damages. The person must have rendered aid in good faith, must not have intentionally caused harm, must not have caused the emergency circumstances in question and must not have been a trained emergency professional for the code to apply.

As long as the individual provided emergency care in good faith and meets the other conditions, he or she will not have to worry about the victim of the emergency suing for damages. The Good Samaritan can render aid without hesitation based on fear of liability. It is important to note, however, that the individual could be liable for any act or omission that meets the definition of gross negligence, wanton disregard for the safety of others or willful misconduct. If the individual does something a reasonable and prudent person would not have in the same situation, he or she may become liable despite California’s Good Samaritan law.

Were You a Good Samaritan at the Scene of an Emergency?

If you were one of the first people to the scene of an emergency, such as a car accident, swimming pool accident, or slip and fall, learn your rights and protections under California’s Good Samaritan law. Originally, the code only applied to medical care rendered at the scene of an emergency by someone who was not a paid emergency service professional. After the passing of Assembly Bill 83 in 2009, however, the state law changed to also include emergency nonmedical care.

The Good Samaritan law does not, however, protect against criminal liability. You could face criminal charges for committing a crime while rendering emergency care if the crime was not necessary to help the victim. For example, you might not face charges for breaking and entering to save someone from a fire, but if you then take the person’s wallet, you could face misdemeanor or felony charges. If you were saving someone from a drug-related emergency, however, Health and Safety Code 11376.5 protects you from being charged with drug crimes.

Were You Injured By a Good Samaritan in California?

If a Good Samaritan injured you, made existing injuries worse or damaged your property while rendering aid to you at the scene of an emergency, you may not have grounds to hold that person liable for damages under California’s Good Samaritan law. Speak to a Sacramento personal injury lawyer to find out if your case qualifies as an exception. You may be eligible for damages from the Good Samaritan if he or she was willful, wanton or grossly negligent. A lawyer can help you understand the details of your case.