Florida’s Good Samaritan Act
Imagine you’re driving along McMullen Booth Road in Clearwater, Florida when you witness a serious crash on a set of railroad tracks. Smoke and fuel pour out of one of the cars, the driver appears unconscious when suddenly the crossing bar starts to flash, alarm and go down. What should you do? You know you’re not supposed to move someone who has had a trauma but you know in just a few seconds they will face certain death from a train. Will you be liable (and financially on the hook) if you save this driver, but paralyze them in the process?
Good Samaritan laws are designed to offer legal protection from civil liability for personal injuries to those who render aid to others in an emergency situation.
In Florida, where multiple hurricanes can affect our state upwards of 6 months out of the year, this law is known as the Good Samaritan Act. The law holds that any person, including those licensed to practice medicine, who in good faith render free emergency care or treatment in direct response to an emergency situation, or related to a public health emergency, a state of emergency which has been declared or at the scene of an emergency outside of a healthcare setting, without objection from the injury victim, shall not be liable for any civil damages as a result of such care or treatment or as a result of any act or failure to act in providing such treatment, so long as he or she acts as an ordinary reasonably prudent person would have acted under the similar circumstances.
What does this mean in plain English? If you help someone out in a reasonable manner, and not over any objections, they can’t successfully sue you if you hurt them or make their injuries worse while rendering emergency aid.
The definition of who is a Good Samaritan differs in each jurisdiction. In some jurisdictions, Good Samaritan laws only protect people who have completed basic first aid training or are certified by organizations like the American Red Cross. In other jurisdictions, they protect anyone who renders aid without the victim’s objection so long as they do so in response to an emergency and in a reasonable matter.
In Florida, certain classes of people – such as law enforcement officers – have a legal duty to provide aid to injured persons who are not in police custody during an emergency regardless of whether the officer is on or off duty and Florida’s Good Samaritan Law does not apply to officers in such a capacity.
Rendering aid to save lives after a crash is a noble and morally correct decision. And thanks to Florida’s Good Samaritan Act, so long as the victim doesn’t object and you do so in a way that any ordinary reasonably prudent person would have done, you likely will be immune from a civil lawsuit for personal injuries.
Chelsie M. Lamie is a personal injury trial attorney in Clearwater, Florida. You can learn more about Attorney Lamie and her practice by visiting www.chelsielamie.com.