We’re all familiar with good Samaritans. Whether it’s someone who chases after you to hand you your wallet after you dropped it in the street or a person who pulls over to help you change your tire, good Samaritans are all around us.
But good Samaritans also exist in law. In Texas, the Good Samaritan law protects individuals who offer assistance in emergencies. In this blog post, we delve into what this law stipulates and how it affects liability, whether you’re the good Samaritan yourself or you were assisted by a good Samaritan after your accident.
What Is a Good Samaritan According to the Texas Good Samaritan Law?
According to Texas law, a good Samaritan is someone who stops by after seeing an accident or people who have been injured and tries to help in good faith. It might involve direct physical help, verbal comforting, or simply directing traffic and calling emergency services.
Although the concept of a good Samaritan seems nothing more than being a good citizen, many people are concerned about the possible implications if something goes wrong when they try to help. What happens if you stop to help and the injured or unwell person becomes worse or even dies? Could you be blamed for what has happened, even if it had nothing to do with what you did at the scene?
The Texas the Good Samaritan Law is in place to prevent such concerns by removing liability.
It doesn’t matter what type of accident it is, although good Samaritans often lend their aid in a traffic accident. It also doesn’t matter what your skills are or whether you have any medical knowledge. That means that whether you are a truck driver, an accountant, or a nurse, you cannot normally be held liable if a person’s condition worsens while you are at the scene.
Do I Have to Be a Good Samaritan?
Some states, including Minnesota, take the Good Samaritan law a step further and have “duty to assist” clauses that make it compulsory for individuals to render reasonable assistance if they encounter an emergency.
However, Texas law does not require anyone to stop and help — even if they are a medical professional.
Are There Any Exceptions to the Texas Good Samaritan Law?
There are several exceptions to the Texas Good Samaritan law to hold people accountable who are negligent in their actions.
To understand when a good Samaritan might be liable, let’s look at the statute itself. According to Section 74 of the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code:
“A person who in good faith administers emergency care is not liable in civil damages for an act performed during the emergency unless the act is wilfully or wantonly negligent…”
There are two crucial parts to consider here:
- In good faith
- Wilfully or wantonly negligent.
A good Samaritan must act in good faith. To take an example, you might arrive at a car accident scene and notice a gas leak. The driver is still in their vehicle, so you rush to the car to pull the driver out before it explodes.
Unbeknownst to you, the driver has a spinal cord injury, and your act of pulling the driver from their vehicle has exacerbated their injury.
Under the good Samaritan law, you acted in good faith, so the driver cannot hold you responsible for worsening their injury.
Secondly, a good Samaritan cannot act with willful or wanton disregard for safety. A good Samaritan can be willfully negligent if they intend to harm a victim, while wanton negligence refers to a good Samaritan disregarding how their actions might impact others.
Consider when a Samaritan sees an accident victim is away from the wreckage and nursing a broken arm but is otherwise safe. They decide to grab the injured party by their arm and drag them over a few feet. They can reasonably foresee that grabbing them by the hurt arm will further injure them. The victim ends up in excruciating pain and with a more severe break.
In this case, the Samaritan may be liable for the victim’s injuries.
Finally, the Texas Good Samaritan law only applies to those who stop and help through a voluntary act. If they expect to ask for payment at the injury scene, they then become liable for any medical malpractice that eventuates.
That means that if a doctor turns up at a crash site and suggests to an injured person that they will help the victim for remuneration, any deterioration that results from the doctor’s actions could be blamed on that doctor. A medical malpractice lawsuit could then result.
How the Good Samaritan Law in Texas Impacts Liability
Generally speaking, a victim of an accident can’t hold a good Samaritan accountable for any injuries resulting from the Samaritan’s actions.
Liability lies with the party responsible for causing the accident. If you are in a car accident with a drunk driver and a good Samaritan comes to your aid and makes your injuries worse, you can only claim compensation from the drunk driver for causing your accident. Of course, there is an exception if the Samaritan did not act in good faith or was blatantly negligent in their actions. In this case, you must prove that they acted with a willful or wanton disregard for your safety to claim compensation.
It’s also important to note that the Good Samaritan law in Texas does not apply to someone who is already implicated in causing another person’s injury.
Let’s illustrate this with an example: Imagine a driver runs down a cyclist. By law, the driver is expected to stop and give assistance, even if that is only calling emergency services. The fact that they have assisted the cyclist does not absolve them from liability, and they can still be held responsible for causing the accident.
If you have been injured in any kind of accident and have been injured further when someone came to help, you will need to discuss the accident thoroughly with an experienced personal injury lawyer in Texas. Contact our team for a free, no-obligation case review to determine who is liable for your accident and how much you can claim.