Frequently while driving along any Orange County freeway you might see accident victims off to the side of the road or hear emergency vehicles on their way. Relieved? Although instinctively most of us would like to help our neighbor or person in need, sometimes we feel inadequate to render aid or just don’t want to get involved for fear of being sued or worse, get injured ourselves.
However, if we were the ones injured on the side of the road, of course we would be hoping someone would stop to lend us a hand. Fortunately, there are wonderful people here in California and elsewhere called “Good Samaritans”. They literally stop whatever they are doing and help with no thought to their own safety.
Just recently this year, a Fountain Valley man was traveling on a Southern California freeway and noticed a collision blocking lanes up ahead. He pulled to the side of the road to help. He was walking safely along the shoulder of the highway, but tragically, a car coming at a high rate of speed did not see the accident and then swerved to the shoulder and hit the man. He suffered major personal injury and was declared dead at the scene.
The California Good Samaritan Law is generally meant to protect lay people who help at any emergency scene. This could be a crime or any injury accident. As long as you help with no expectation of payment or reward, you will be immune from liability if you assist to the best of your ability. However, a recent ruling in March 2007 by the California Court of Appeal will change the Good Samaritan law regarding the expectation of “medical care” to the accident victim.
The case involved a woman, Alexandra Van Horn, who was a passenger in a car who ran into a light pole at 45 mph. A passenger in the car following her stopped at the accident scene to render assistance. She lifted her out of the wrecked automobile and as a result, Ms. Horn became a paraplegic. Even though court testimony was debated as to whether the accident or the lifting could have caused the paraplegia, the court ruled that the Good Samaritan liability shield did not protect her.
So what’s a Good Samaritan to do? Here are a couple rules of thumb to keep in mind.
The Good Samaritan law does not give you the license to act like a doctor. If you chose to stop and help, you should only help out in a way that reflects your prior training. If you’ve had first aid training and are CPR certified, great! Then you can help out in this way. If not, there are other things you can do at an accident scene to help. For example, talk to the people involved until help arrives, call 9-1-1, supply blankets for warmth to prevent shock, etc. The best way you can be a Good Samaritan is to offer assistance within your expertise experience.
If you have been involved in an automobile accident and don’t know where to turn, contact an experienced law firm such as Allen, Flatt, Ballidis and Leslie. Their professional team of law professionals will assist you through every step of this process and answer all of your questions.