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Medical Malpractice And The Good Samaritan Law

By Expert Author: David Drexler

Good Samaritan Laws exist in many States in the US and are intended to protect a citizen from prosecution if they unwittingly harm or exacerbate a victim’s medical condition while in the process of attempting to render aid in the case of a motor vehicle accident or other medical emergency.


If a medical professional, such as a physician or nurse or EMT harms or exacerbates the medical condition of a victim, they can be sued by a medical malpractice lawyer in behalf of the victim and held liable for any injuries caused as well as pain and suffering.


These so called “Good Samaritan Laws” are named for a biblical story in which a traveler from the area of Samaria renders aid to a stranger who he has found robbed, beaten, and left to die on the road.


In the State of California, the original Good Samaritan law was created in 1980. At this time, Health and Safety Code 1799.102 was enacted. It stated that, “no person who in good faith and not for compensation, renders emergency care at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission. The scene of an emergency shall not include emergency departments and other places where medical care is usually offered.”


In 2004 a case came to light which was pivotal in amending California’s Good Samaritan Law, and forever changed the way Good Samaritan Laws were viewed in general. The case was named Van Horne vs Torti and involved two former friends who were involved in an auto accident. Torti pulled Van Horne from a crashed vehicle and was subsequently sued when Van Hone suffered paraplegia from allegedly being yanked out of the car by Torti in a harsh manner. Torti attempted to use the Good Samaritan Statute as her defense, but both an appellate and Supreme Court ruled in favor of the plaintiff and held Torti responsible for Van Horns injuries. Their decision was based upon the fact that they did not consider Van Horn being pulled from the car to be emergency medical care.


The State Legislature was immediately concerned that this historic decision would cause individuals to fear helping others in need and less than one week after this decision, Assembly Bill 83 was added to the existing Health and Safety Code. The bill made two important changes:


Added immunity from civil liability for the provider of medical and non-medical aid during an emergency


Made an exception to that immunity for any act of gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct in the course of providing said care, with gross negligence being defined as "an exercise of so slight a degree of care as to justify the belief there was indifference to the interest and welfare of others." And
Willful or wanton misconduct defined as "conduct by a person who may have no intent to cause harm, but who intentionally performs an act so unreasonable and dangerous that he or she knows or should know it is highly probable that harm will result."


If you have questions about how California's Good Samaritan law may apply to your situation, contact a personal injury lawyer – known also as a “medical malpractice attorney” – who has experience handling medical malpractice cases.


R. Klettke is a freelance writer. He writes about personal injury and medical malpractice law and other matters of jurisprudence.


Important Advisory: This article is not intended to provide legal advice upon which you or anyone else should rely in making any decisions regarding the instituting or prosecuting of a legal claim. Laws and rules relating to the bringing of a claim vary widely from state to state. You should always contact a personal injury attorney to obtain information as to the rules and the laws pertaining to any claim you might have.

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