Last week, I was stopped at a red light next to St. Vincent’s Hospital when I began to hear cars honking their horns. After a few seconds of this, several people stopped their cars in the middle of the road, got out, and started sprinting towards the edge of the crosswalk. A man was violently convulsing on the ground, and these people were rushing to help in any way they could. A heroic sight for sure. Some were calling 9-1-1, another was trying to figure out whether he should hold the seizing man, and a third gentleman dressed in a medical uniform was running from a hundred yards away to see how he could help. In an emergency such as this, it’s doubtful that any of them stopped to wonder what kind of liability they were exposing themselves to, and that’s good! Florida’s Good Samaritan Act helps alleviate any of the hesitations that they may have had if they did stop to think about their personal liability. This protection is intended to encourage bystanders to help those in need without fear of being sued. The following is the law in a nutshell:
- Florida’s Good Samaritan Act can be found in Florida Statute 768.13
- These laws vary from state to state.
- Generally, you do not owe a duty to render aid to anyone, but if you do decide to render aid, you must do so in good faith and exercise the same care as an ordinary reasonably prudent person would under the same or similar circumstances.
- If the injured person objects to your aid, you may be held liable if you still render aid and worsen their condition.
- Your aid must be rendered gratuitously (without compensation).
- If you do not act in good faith, act as a reasonably prudent person would in same or similar circumstances, over the objection of the injured party, or you accept compensation for your action(s) and make the person’s injuries or situation worse, you could be held liable for their damages resulting from your actions.
- If you are a health care provider, you will not be held liable unless damages result from providing, or failing to provide, medical care or treatment under circumstances demonstrating a reckless disregard for the consequences.
- Here, “reckless disregard” means, “such conduct that a health care provider knew or should have known, at the time such services were rendered, created an unreasonable risk of injury so as to affect the life or health of another, and such risk was substantially greater than that which is necessary to make the conduct negligent.”
- This Statute also covers issues involving emergency diagnosis, injured animals, drug overdoses, and other situations.
Bottom line: be cautious if the situation allows for it, but don’t let the fear of being sued stop you from helping someone if you are able. The tiniest of facts can decide whether or not you are covered under this Statute, so it is important to consult with an attorney if you find yourself in a situation involving this Act.