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How do Good Samaritan laws affect a personal injury case?

If a doctor, nurse, or other medical professional are presumed to have made a mistake and accidentally harmed a patient they were trying to help, then the law allows the victim to sue for medical malpractice. This right to sue does not, however, apply in all circumstances.

Like many states, New York has a Good Samaritan law that protects healthcare professionals and rescue volunteers when they assist a victim in an emergency situation. In most cases, these professionals or volunteers are not at their usual workplace: for example, an off-duty nurse at a restaurant where a diner has a heart attack or a doctor driving home after their shift and coming across the scene of an accident.

The Good Samaritan Law, or New York Public Health Law Section 3000-a, was enacted in 1984. It provides litigation protection to anyone providing aid to someone else at the scene of an accident or any other emergency situation outside of a doctor’s office, hospital, or any other place where medical equipment can be accessed. There is a condition: the rescuer must be acting voluntarily and without expecting to be paid.

In most personal injury cases, the legal standard is that of negligence, or failure to exercise ordinary care. Good Samaritans can only be held liable if they appear to be guilty of gross negligence, or actions so careless that they demonstrate a complete disregard for the victim’s safety. For example:

  • A paramedic renders assistance to a car accident victim as part of their employment and the patient decides to sue. The standard applied in the lawsuit would be one of negligence, as they were on duty and had access to medical equipment.
  • Another paramedic has finished their shift and is driving to a restaurant to meet friends when they see a bleeding person coming out of a car in the ditch. They stop to help. If the victim later files a personal injury lawsuit against them, then the standard would be gross negligence

While New York Public Health Law Section 3000-a can’t prevent a victim from suing the Good Samaritan who assists them, it does make it less likely that the lawsuit will succeed. The law is intended to encourage people to offer assistance in emergency situations without fearing that they’ll literally pay for it later.

If you believe you have been injured by the actions of a Good Samaritan, then talk to a New York personal injury attorney before you consider filing a lawsuit. An attorney can determine whether that individual acted with gross negligence or the protections offered by the Good Samaritan Act prevent you from having a case. Injuries involving voluntary assistance can be a legal gray area, so seeking advice from a qualified legal professional can help you make the right decision. Contact the law office of Jayson Lutzky, P.C. if you helped an injured individual in a Good Samaritan situation and are unsure of your rights. Mr. Lutzky is an accident and personal injury lawyer and offers free in-office initial consultations. Visit www.MyNewYorkCityLawyer.com/Blog for the latest information or call 718-329-9500 to learn more about Mr. Lutzky’s services.

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