When accidents occur, the help of a Good Samaritan can save the day. Named after the parable in the Bible about a traveler who helps an injured man on the road, these laws use the term “Good Samaritan” to describe those who provide aid to another. While there is no legal duty either at the state or federal level to assist someone in an emergency, the purpose of Good Samaritan laws is to protect those who put themselves in harm’s way for the sake of another. If you have acted in good faith as a Good Samaritan on behalf of someone else, the following will help you learn more about your legal rights under New Jersey Good Samaritan laws.
What are the Good Samaritan Laws?
When accidents or unexpected events occur, oftentimes the injured parties need immediate assistance prior to paramedics arriving at the scene. In these cases, those individuals who assist the injured parties may not have the proper medical training to provide the best medical care. In some cases, good-hearted individuals may actually make the injuries worse and cause more harm.
The Good Samaritan Law states that those individuals who, acting in good faith, voluntarily attempted to provide medical assistance to those in need will be immune from legal liability and prosecution regarding any act or omission with respect to the accident victim.
No Requirement to be a Good Samaritan
According to the New Jersey Supreme Court, witnesses and bystanders to an accident have no legal obligation to assist anyone injured or in danger. The court stated clearly that “no one is obliged by law to assist a stranger, even though he can do so by a mere word, and without the slightest danger to himself.” While you do have an obligation to act without negligence, you do not have an affirmative legal obligation or duty to prevent harm from others or assist those who are in harms’ way.
Note that there are circumstances in which this law does not apply, and in which there is a duty to act, defend, or rescue another person. These cases involve special relationships such as parent/child, employer/employee, and some others. The Good Samaritan Law is not applicable in these cases.
New Jersey Good Samaritan Laws
The seconds between the time of an accident to the arrival of medical help can literally be the difference between life and death for injured victims. The American Heart Association states that if the performance of CPR occurs in the first few moments after a heart attack it can possibly triple the chance of the victim’s survival. While bystanders and witnesses have often been reluctant to interject themselves in emergency situations for fear of legal retaliation if they do not perform perfectly, the law simply states that as long as they do not act negligently, they are not legally liable for any additional harm or injuries caused.
Society realizes that it is better to attempt to act as a helpful community member for the betterment of everyone in emergency situations. In fact, the state of New Jersey, like all other states in the United States, has enacted Good Samaritan Laws to protect bystanders and witnesses acting in good faith and providing assistance to others during an emergency. In New Jersey, a person who acts in good faith to render emergency care has immunity from prosecution in civil liability.
Again, this legal immunity will not protect you from any liability against your actions if they rise to the level of “gross, willful or wanton negligence.” In simple terms, this means that you have to do something harmful above and beyond what an average person would do in order to be personally liable for any harm.
New Jersey Good Samaritan Emergency Response Act
In New Jersey, most Good Samaritan Laws will also provide immunity from prosecution for doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who come upon an accident and voluntarily provide medical assistance outside of their normal employment and without the expectation of any monetary compensation. Any first responders that acting in the course of their normal “on the job” duties, such as EMTs, on-duty firemen, and emergency room staff, must maintain a normal and ordinary standard of care under law and or are legally liable if they breach that duty.
Therefore, in accordance with N.J.S.A. 2A:62-A1, all first responders, including doctors and paramedics as well as bystanders, are able to provide assistance at the scene of an accident without fear of being subject to legal action. Again, it is important to note that exceptions exist, such as if an accident victim’s harm is due to intentional behavior, negligence, or recklessness.
The Good Samaritan Fatal Overdose Prevention Statute
In a similar position, the Overdose Prevention Act encourages people to contact emergency workers if they are a witness to a person who has possibly overdosed on illegal or prescription drugs. Illegal and prescription drug overdose deaths in the United States are unfortunately one of the most common types of fatalities. In many situations, people who overdose are not provided with adequate help from emergency services.
The Overdose Prevention Act encourages bystanders and witnesses to freely contact emergency workers without fear of repercussion or legal liability. As a result, a person who in good faith attempts to obtain medical help after experiencing a drug overdose has legal immunity from arrest, charges, or prosecution with respect to the controlled substance. It is important to note that the Overdose Prevention Act does not protect persons for arrest regarding the offenses of selling or trafficking drugs.
Contact an Experienced Personal Injury Attorney
While Good Samaritan Laws exist to protect bystanders and witnesses acting in good faith, some exceptions exist to this law. If you were harmed due to the negligence of another person in the state of New Jersey, do not hesitate to speak with an experienced injury attorney today. Schedule a free consultation today with an experienced attorney at Ferrara & Gable to understand your rights.