Good Samaritan law: can I be sued for offering first aid?

If I see an accident, I want to stop and help. My husband says not to because we might get sued. Isn't there such a thing as a Good Samaritan Law that protects me?

Your instincts to be a Good Samaritan are correct, according to Johns, Flaherty & Collins attorney Joe Veenstra. "Wisconsin has a law that says anyone who gives emergency care at the scene of an accident in good faith is immune from lawsuit."

Wisconsin first passed a Good Samaritan law in 1963 that applied to health care workers. It was extended to the lay public in 1977 and has been unchanged since then.

However, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled in May 2006 that this protection applies only until the care of the individual can be turned over to medical professionals.

The case on which justices based that decision involved an ATV accident resulting in injuries to a young woman passenger and her boyfriend/ATV driver. Instead of providing care just until she could be evaluated by a professional, the boyfriend's mother monitored the woman in her home for six or seven hours. It was only at the end of that time, when the mother realized the woman was confused and disoriented, that she summoned professional help.

The woman, who suffered permanent injuries, sued the caregiver who had monitored her for those seven hours. The defendant claimed immunity under the Good Samaritan law, but the court said non-emergency care, which is not protected, began after the initial evaluation and assistance.

"The purpose of the Good Samaritan Law is to overcome the public's reluctance to get involved in a situation and provide help when prompt care is needed," Veenstra said. "If you see an accident or see someone injured in a basketball game, you can stop and help without worrying about being sued."

For more information about the Good Samaritan law, contact Joe Veenstra at 608-784-5678.

Please Share Me On