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Good Samaritan Immunity

I’m David Holub, an attorney focusing on personal injury law in northwest Indiana.

Welcome to Personal Injury Primer, where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss topics related to personal injury law.

Today’s question comes from a caller who asks “my cousin was seriously injured when a car swerved into her lane of travel in order to avoid a car that had stopped in the middle of the road to provide emergency medical care to a man lying on the edge of the roadway, and to make matters worse the car that crossed the centerline had no insurance, is there any way to help my cousin?”

Obviously, the car that crossed the centerline caused the crash by  crossing the centerline.

However, frequently a centerline crosser will try to shift the blame to a car that stopped in the roadway, or make some other excuse to shift the blame. Or, when the centerline crosser has no insurance, it may be necessary to look to other jointly responsible parties to recover for the damages suffered.

So, let’s examine whether there is a valid claim against the person who stopped their care in the middle of the roadway to provide emergency medical care to a person lying along the roadway.

Indiana has a Good Samaritan statute. It basically says that when a person who comes upon the scene of an accident, or is summoned to the scene of an accident and, in good faith, renders emergency care at the scene of the accident, that good samaritan is immune from civil liability for any personal injury that results from:

(1) any act or omission by the person in rendering the emergency care; or

(2) any act or failure to act to provide or arrange for further medical treatment or care for the injured person;

except for acts or omissions amounting to gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.

In short, the Good Samaritan Law immunizes Good Samaritans who might carelessly injure someone while they are acting to provide or arrange to provide medical treatment or care for an injured person.

So, if a motorist stops to help another motorist and a person is injured during the process of providing assistance the person providing assistance can’t be successfully sued if they are negligent in providing assistance. They can only be successfully sued if they are grossly or willfully and recklessly careless.

What might be gross negligence or recklessness? Suppose the assistance giver stops their car in the roadway on a hill, and gets out without engaging the parking brake, and the car rolls down the hill and strikes someone? Such conduct easily could be viewed as reckless and make the Samaritan a bad Samaritan under the law, which would make them liable.

Acts or omissions while providing emergency care can easily reach the level of “gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.” Gross negligence is a conscious voluntary act or omissions that is in reckless disregard of the consequences to another party.

Willful or wanton conduct is where one knows that a particular a course of misconduct will likely result in probable injury, and yet one proceeds upon that course of conduct with a deliberate indifference to the consequences.

Another example of willful and wanton conduct would be a person stopping to assist a car crash victim, seeing gasoline puddled on the pavement and smelling gas fumes from the overturned car, and nevertheless proceeding to run to the car with a lit cigar clenched in their teeth.

Bottomline, always call an experienced attorney in such situations and discuss the facts with them. You may be pleasantly surprised that a case can be made to recover for the harm suffered.

I hope you found this information helpful. If you have questions about your legal rights if you get hurt due to the carelessness of another person, or as a result of substandard medical care, or due to a product defect, construction injury, or any other type of personal injury, please give us a call at (219) 736-9700. You can also learn more about us by visiting our website at www.DavidHolubLaw.com – while there make sure you request a copy of our book “Fighting for Truth”.