Who Is Responsible If You Get Injured During an Emergency?
At some point, almost everyone has imagined what they would do in an emergency – how they would react, and who and what they would try to save. But what happens when the person needing to be saved is you? No one wants to contemplate being injured or incapacitated in an accident or other catastrophic event, because it is difficult to picture being so helpless. In these emergency situations, the injured often have to look to bystanders or other parties to help them get the medical attention they need. Usually, such assistance is welcome and helpful, but there is the possibility that the person coming to one’s aid could actually make the injuries worse. Is it possible to hold them responsible and file a personal injury lawsuit to recover for any losses? Like many other states, Florida has Good Samaritan laws on the books that limit the liability of a person coming to someone else’s aid. In fact, the Florida Legislature updated its Good Samaritan law this year, which expanded the scope of rescue efforts that are exempt from liability. However, while these laws limit a rescuer’s liability, they do not absolutely exclude the possibility of suing them in all situations. In certain circumstances, these individuals can be responsible for the exacerbation of a person’s injuries.
Original Good Samaritan Law
Florida’s Good Samaritan law is designed to encourage bystanders, especially medical professionals, to render aid to someone in an emergency without the fear of being sued. First, it is important to know that there is no general duty to help an injured person. Thus, if a person sees someone with a broken leg lying on the side of the road and decides to keep driving, that person cannot be sued for failing to stop. Further, the law only protects someone from liability if the injured gives him/her permission to help. However, once consent is received and assistance is begun, the person giving aid must exercise reasonable care. Reasonable care is an objective legal test that assesses if a person acted in a similar manner compared to other reasonably prudent people in a similar situation. For the regular bystander, liability is only assumed if he/she did not provide reasonable care or the injured person reasonably relied on the Good Samaritan’s attempts to help and was injured as a result. Thus, if the person rendering aid acted unreasonably, he/she could be liable for additional injury.
When it comes to medical professionals, they can only be found liable if they acted in “reckless disregard” of the consequences. Reckless disregard means the medical professional knew or should have known his/her conduct would create an unreasonable risk of injury. This is a higher liability standard than the one applied to laypersons helping an injured party, so it will be more difficult to successfully sue.
Florida’s new addition to its Good Samaritan law extends immunity for liability to individuals that break into a locked car to help a distressed animal or vulnerable person. A vulnerable person refers to a minor child, or an adult that is impaired due to cognitive or physical limitations. The immunity is exclusively for damage caused to the vehicle during the attempts to free the distressed person. In order for the immunity to apply, the person must:
- determine the car is locked or there is no reasonable way for the animal or person to exit;
- have a good faith belief the animal or person is in imminent danger of harm;
- contact 911 before or right after entering the vehicle;
- use the minimum amount of force necessary to free the animal or person; and
- remain at the scene until law enforcement or emergency responders arrive.
Contact a Lawyer
If you were injured as a result of a good Samaritan, do not assume the person is not liable for the harm he/she caused. Good Samaritan laws are complicated, and require the knowledge of an experienced personal injury lawyer to assess whether they apply to a particular case. The Miami law firm of Pita Weber & Del Prado handles a wide variety of personal injury claims and can help you hold the responsible party accountable. Contact us for a free consultation.