California Health and Safety Code Section 1799.102: California Good Samaritan Law

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Time doesn’t slow down, and time is what people need when they experience a medical emergency in public. In California, individuals do not have a duty to come to the aid of others who are in danger or experiencing an emergency situation. This means that individuals cannot be held responsible for failing to help, either civilly or criminally. However, individuals can assist others experiencing an emergency without fear of facing criminal and civil actions as well, under certain conditions. All of this is based on the Good Samaritan law. This prevents you from facing lawsuits when trying to save someone’s life. 

What the Good Samaritan Law Means

The Good Samaritan law in California states that if a person renders emergency medical or even non-medical care at the scene of an ongoing emergency, then they will not be held liable for any harm that results from their act or failure to act at the scene. This law applies if:

  • The individual offered help without expecting any payment or reward in return
  • The assistance was made in good faith
  • The person offering assistance was not grossly negligent and did not willfully or wantonly conduct themselves in a harmful way

It is very important to point out that this statute does not cover emergency medical care provided by trained medical professionals such as paramedics, EMTs, and firefighters. If an emergency care provider causes an injury while administering aid in an emergency, the injury victim may have the ability to file a lawsuit against the medical professional.

Why Have a Good Samaritan Law?

Every state around the country has some form of Good Samaritan law in place, even though it may seem like common sense not to hold individuals responsible if they are trying to assist in an emergency. The reality is that every law that gets passed is passed for a reason. There are times when individuals have offered help to those in an emergency only to be sued because it is believed they caused an injury while helping.

The Good Samaritan statute in California helps encourage individuals to provide assistance to others who are in need and to volunteer their assistance without the expectation of compensation. The reality is that the first moments after an emergency are the most crucial. Nowhere is this more evident than individuals going into cardiac arrest. Only approximately 10% of all individuals who experience cardiac arrest out of a medical facility survive, but this number increases significantly when CPR is administered.

What About Drug Overdoses?

Under Assembly Bill 472, we can see that the Good Samaritan law in California provides limited protection from arrest or prosecution for those who seek medical assistance at the scene of a suspected drug overdose. As the opioid epidemic has increased across this country, clarifications to Good Samaritan laws are changing around the country. In many cases, individuals would call 911 if they or their loved ones were experiencing a drug overdose and then face prosecution for participating in drug-related activities.

The reality is that many drug overdose deaths are preventable if individuals call 911 and ensure that EMS personnel get to the scene as soon as possible. 

If you need additional legal advice, contact the attorneys at Harting Simkins & Ryan, LLP for assistance.