The first people at the scene of an accident – often those who witnessed the accident – are in a unique position to help victims. They can check for injuries, call an ambulance and keep victims calm while they wait for help. Like many states, Texas has a law in place protecting those who render aid at the scene of emergencies. It is called the Good Samaritan Law.
What Is the Good Samaritan Law?
Texas’s Good Samaritan Law (Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code Section 74.151) protects people who offer aid at the scene of emergencies from liability for any unintentional damages their interventions cause. These people are referred to as Good Samaritans, as a reference to a parable in the Bible about someone helping a stranger in need. If a Good Samaritan stops at the scene of an accident and renders medical aid in good faith, that person is protected from any liability for related damages in Texas.
The Good Samaritan Law is in place to encourage people who witness accidents to step forward and render assistance without fear of being sued later by a victim for accidentally making things worse. If, for example, a Good Samaritan pulls someone out of a burning vehicle and this action exacerbates a spinal cord injury, causing permanent paralysis, the Good Samaritan will not be liable for unintentionally causing the injury under Texas law.
Who Does the Good Samaritan Law Protect?
As long as a Good Samaritan renders emergency medical care in a good faith attempt to help the victim of an accident, he or she is protected from liability under the Texas Good Samaritan Act. This law states that any person who administers emergency care in good faith is not liable for any related civil damages suffered during the emergency.
According to the statute, the act also protects any person who uses an automated external defibrillator to administer emergency care, as well as someone who acts as a volunteer first responder. The act does not, however, apply to anyone who intervenes at the scene of an emergency for compensation or remuneration, as well as anyone who was at the scene with the purpose of soliciting business.
The Good Samaritan Law in Texas also does not protect anyone who is licensed to provide emergency medical care, such as an EMT or a doctor in an emergency room. The law holds these professionals to a higher standard of care than an average civilian with no professional medical training. The professional must be more careful to prevent any foreseeable harm to the victim in an emergency and may be liable for any damages inflicted by substandard care.
What If the Good Samaritan Is Negligent?
The Texas Good Samaritan Act also has an exception if the person rendering emergency aid is the same person whose negligent act or omission caused the original accident. In this situation, the person who caused the accident will not be protected from liability for the victim’s injuries, property damage and other losses.
Finally, one of the most important exceptions to the Good Samaritan Law is if the person who renders aid is willfully or wantonly negligent. If the person does not render aid in a good faith attempt to help the victim, such as by knowingly doing something that could harm the victim, he or she could be liable for related damages.
The Good Samaritan must act in a way that is not intentionally negligent or reckless to benefit from legal protection. For the most part, however, the Texas Good Samaritan Law protects the average person who renders medical aid in an emergency.
What to Do After Witnessing an Accident
If you are the first person to the scene of an accident, do not be afraid to step in and help. Try not to move an injured person unless it is necessary for his or her safety. Instead, call the police and stay with the victim to offer your support while you wait for paramedics to arrive. Then, offer your services to the victim as an eyewitness, if possible. You could save a life by rendering aid in an emergency, as well as help a victim recover through a personal injury lawsuit.