Personal liability and why you shouldn’t be scared to be
a Good Samaritan
You’re walking home and suddenly you witness the person across the street trip over a raised footpath and collapse hard to the floor.
That person doesn’t get up and there isn’t anyone else around – so without thinking you immediately rush over to check to see if they’re okay and assist them in anyway possible.
For most people, this would be their reaction because their default setting in an emergency situation is to immediately help the person in need. Many would like to assume that this is because most people are genuinely compassionate and possess an inbuilt tendency to show empathy, particularly in an emergency situation.
But with public uncertainty around personal liability and the potential to be sued for doing the wrong thing when genuinely attempting to help someone in need, particularly in the absence of professional care – there are many people out there who understandably would think twice about being a Good Samaritan.
Well, to clear up any confusion or hesitation there are specific laws in place that protect the Good Samaritans who assist people who are injured, ill or in some form of danger.
By the definition of the law, what is a Good Samaritan?
Most people associate the term Good Samaritan with someone who goes out of their way to help a stranger in need out of the goodness of their heart. And when it comes to the law, the term is essentially viewed in the same light.
According to the Civil Liability Act (NSW), a Good Samaritan is a person who decides to act in good faith by assisting a person who is injured or at risk of being injured and not expecting payment or a reward for their efforts.
The Act makes no mention of the Good Samaritan needing any specific medical or emergency qualification. In-fact you are not considered, or specifically, protected by the Act if you are a health care or emergency worker or police officer.
How are Good Samaritans protected by the law?
The Civil Liability Act (NSW) is primarily in place to encourage ordinary people in everyday situations to provide some form of assistance to someone in need, when they can. Because, more often than not, some form of help is better than standing back and providing no assistance at all.
Under the Good Samaritan laws, a person who is acting in good faith in providing assistance to someone in need is protected from any personal liability in an emergency situation.
When are you not protected from personal liability?
While the Act clearly encourages people to assist in an emergency situation by protecting them from personal liability, it’s also fairly clear when protection will not apply.
It’s important to realise you’re not protected from personal liability if;
- The Good Samaritan who is assisting an injured person, initially caused the injury or accident
- The Good Samaritan’s ability to assist a person in need is impaired because they are under the influence of drugs or alcohol
- The Good Samaritan falsely claims to have medical qualifications or impersonates a healthcare, emergency services worker or police officer
- The Good Samaritan clearly failed to show reasonable care in their assistance
If you’ve been injured or have a question regarding personal liability or public liability, and want to know if you’re entitled to injury compensation, give us a call and speak to one of our specialist public liability lawyers for free advice today.