Q.: What is the “Good Samaritan” law?
A.: The “Good Samaritan” law provides certain protection from lawsuits to people who give first aid or other emergency care or treatment to someone suffering an injury or sudden illness. This statute is listed in the Ohio Revised Code, Section 2305.23.
Q.: Under what circumstances does the Good Samaritan law apply?
A.: The care or treatment must be given at the scene of an emergency outside of a hospital, doctor’s office, or other medical facility. The law protects volunteers who help when someone becomes ill or is injured in places such as on the street or highway, in parks, restaurants, businesses, even private residences. If someone is already at a hospital or other medical facility, the law does not apply
Q.: Are there any limits to the protection of the Good Samaritan law?
A.: The law does not protect against lawsuits or criminal charges for “willful or wanton” (intentional or malicious) misconduct. Examples of willful or wanton misconduct would include stealing from an accident victim or inappropriate sexual touching.
Also, if the person providing the emergency care or treatment is paid or expects to get paid for giving the care or treatment, whether by the victim or someone on behalf of the victim (such as an insurance company), the Good Samaritan law does not provide protection. This is because a person who is paid generally is not considered a volunteer, and the Good Samaritan law is intended to protect those who volunteer in emergencies. The statute provides one exception to this not-being-paid rule: An on-duty police officer or fire fighter who gives emergency care or treatment may be covered by the Good Samaritan law. The reasoning is that, even though the police officer or firefighter is being paid by the department for working a shift (or responding to a call-out in the case of volunteer firefighters), payment is not being provided specifically for giving care to a particular individual in an emergency.
Q.: Does the Good Samaritan law protect doctors, nurses, and other health care professionals?
A.: Yes, if the health care professional volunteers her/his services at the scene of an emergency that is outside a hospital, doctor’s office or other medical facility. However, a professional who seeks payment for this volunteer emergency care or treatment loses the protection under the Good Samaritan law.
Law You Can Use is a weekly consumer legal information column provided by the Ohio State Bar Association (OSBA). This article was prepared by Cleveland attorney Harold R. Rauzi.