At some point in your life, you have probably driven by a car accident that just took place and wondered if you should stop and try to help. Or, possibly you were involved in an accident and were hoping someone might stop to help you. In Virginia, there is no legal duty to come to anyone’s aid and, sadly, most people will not stop to help for fear of being sued if everything does not go just right. Fortunately, Virginia has enacted a Good Samaritan Law that addresses this problem.
How does the Good Samaritan Law work?
The Good Samaritan Law is designed to protect anyone who makes a reasonable effort to assist a victim in need of help from liability. If you or a family member are experiencing any kind of personal injury issue, the dedicated attorneys at the Virginia personal injury law firm of Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp can help. Call and schedule a free case review with a member of our legal team today.
What Does the Good Samaritan Law Cover?
Virginia law states that any person who provides emergency assistance to anyone who is in danger of death or serious injury is exempt from civil liability for the death or injury of the victim. There are, however, multiple conditions that must be present in order for a rescuer to be afforded these protections.
The rescuer must:
Have Acted in Good Faith
Acting in good faith means that the motives behind your actions were sincere and honest. In other words, the rescuer must have rendered aid with the sole intention of preventing harm from coming to another human being. For example, if a driver causes an accident and then attempts to help the person he injured in hopes that they won’t notify law enforcement, then they are not acting in good faith. Similarly, if a third party comes to the aid of accident victims with the hope that they will be financially rewarded, they might also not be acting in good faith.
Not Collect a Financial Reward
If you try to charge a person you rescued for the medical assistance you provided, you are not considered a Good Samaritan. The Good Samaritan Law only protects those who volunteer their help.
Not Commit Gross Negligence
If the rescuer behaves in an unreasonable manner when attempting to help, they might not be shielded from liability for any injuries or deaths they caused while rendering emergency aid. For example, if you pull someone from a burning car but then leave them lying in the middle of the roadway where they are struck by a vehicle, the Good Samaritan Law is probably not going to help you.
Make a Reasonable Effort to Notify Emergency Responders
In most cases, the most useful thing you can do for an accident victim is notify local law enforcement, the fire brigade, or paramedics. The law states that rescuers must try to do so. This condition can easily be satisfied by simply calling 911.
Who is Protected Under the Good Samaritan Law?
In Virginia, the Good Samaritan law is quite broad. It covers numerous situations, such as:
- Helping a crash victim out of their vehicle or administering emergency aid at the scene of an accident
- Delivering a baby
- Acting on the instruction of fire, police, or other emergency personnel to transport or handle hazardous materials
- Giving someone epinephrine via an epi-pen
- Performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation
- Using an automated external defibrillator
What Should I Do if I Witness an Accident?
If you see a traffic accident or any other type of accident, you should:
Get to a Safe Place
One traffic accident can quickly become two if people remain in harm’s way. You won’t be able to help anybody if you try to exit your vehicle in the middle of the roadway and get struck by another driver. Always move your car away from the accident scene and turn on your hazard lights. If you are able to safely reach the injured victims and render aid then you may do so. If you do not think you can safely approach, then stay where you are and wait for emergency responders to get there.
Notify Local Law Enforcement
You should call 911 and report the accident as soon as possible. Provide the dispatcher with as much information as possible, including the location of the crash and whether or not medical assistance is needed. Don’t ever assume that somebody else has already called.
Look for Injuries
If the victims are conscious, try and find out if they are injured. Never try to render aid or move a victim unless the situation warrants immediate, life-saving action. Remain at the scene until responders arrive.
Give a Witness Statement
Once law enforcement is on the scene, you will be asked for your name and contact details, and to provide a statement. Answer any questions to the best of your ability. Let them know if you rendered medical aid to anyone.
Speak With a Good Samaritan Lawyer Today
Witnessing an accident can be an overwhelming and distressing experience, especially if you tried to help a victim who is now blaming you for their injuries. If you find yourself in this situation, you need to seek immediate legal advice.
At the Virginia personal injury law firm of Shapiro, Washburn & Sharp, we are dedicated to holding negligent parties accountable for their actions. We have a long-established track record of achieving successful results in challenging personal injury cases and have recovered millions in damages for our clients.
To speak with an experienced Virginia personal injury lawyer today, schedule a free consultation today by calling us at (833) 997-1774.
For over twenty years, Mr. Sharp's law practice has focused on serious personal injury claims, including traumatic brain injury and spinal cord injury claims. He also handles nursing home neglect cases and medical malpractice claims. Mr. Sharp has counseled numerous clients about the complexities concerning litigation of both pediatric and adult brain injury.