Lawyers and lawsuits do sometimes get in the way of good common sense. We admit it. But we feel that you should never expose yourself to legal trouble simply by helping someone at the scene of a car accident or other emergency. The law should protect people who want to be a hero by helping when faced with an emergency situation.
Luckily, you don’t have to worry about a lawyer suing you if you render emergency assistance to someone as a good samaritan. Maryland, like most states, has a law known as the Good Samaritan law. As far as covering the general public, this is probably most applicable to car accidents in Maryland, but it can cover other types of emergency situations too.
This law protects bystanders who render first aid or other emergency assistance. The law also covers EMT’s and first responders, with some slight twists. See below for more on that.
The law is found in the Maryland Code in the Courts & Judicial Proceedings section 5-603. This is the specific statute protecting you from a civil lawsuit for personal injury. There is actually another law in Maryland also known as the “Good Samaritan” law, which protects you from criminal charges if you call 911 for aid in a criminal situation. Read all about that law in this blog post.
For the General Public
Maryland’s Good Samaritan law for civil cases says that a member of the general public cannot be held civilly liable for any act you do (or acts you should do but don’t do) when providing assistance or medical aid at the scene of an emergency. This law will cover you as long as the aid you provide is rendered in a “reasonably prudent manner,” and you do it without the expectation of a fee or other compensation. You also have to relinquish care to a certified first responder when they arrive.
To be honest, what constitutes a “reasonably prudent manner” is open to debate. We lawyers love to argue about the meaning of the word “reasonable.” But as a trial lawyer myself, I can tell you it would be very hard for any lawyer to sue you if you acted in good faith when rendering first aid. No Judge or Jury is going to give a judgment if you were really acting in good faith, and I think most lawyers would avoid the case altogether. I imagine if you did something that crosses the line into “gross negligence”, you may be exposed to liability. But you would have to do something pretty unreasonable to cross that line.
For EMT’s & First Responders
The law actually covers EMT’s and first responders too. The law covers them for acts or omissions while rendering aid or giving emergency medical care, as long as they are doing so without charging a fee to the victim. It applies while you are at the scene of an emergency, or in transit to emergency medical care, or while you are communicating with other first responders or doctors.
The part of the law covering first responders is for those who are licensed or certified by the state, or who have at least completed an advanced first aid course from the American Red Cross or an equivalent agency. It covers most first responders I can think of. They even threw the ski patrol in there. It is clearly designed to be a broad protection for first responders.
The law does not cover you if the act or omission rises to the level of “gross” negligence. That means something so bad that no reasonable person would do it.
Whether you are a first responder, or just a bystander who wants to help, Maryland’s Good Samaritan law protects you if you ever need to give first aid at the scene of a car accident or other emergency. So go ahead – be a hero!