If you live in Michigan, the answer is yes – unless you are a licensed medical professional or emergency first responder. Every year many people face lawsuits after trying to help a victim on the scene of a car accident. No matter how good your intentions, the victim may sue you if they suffer additional injuries as a result of your action.
The Good Samaritan Law
In legal terms, a Good Samaritan refers to a person who renders emergency assistance to an injured person/s on a voluntary basis.
Each of the 50 states plus the District of Columbia has its own version of a Good Samaritan law. Also called the “duty to rescue” law, it is designed to protect volunteers who step in to help a stranger – in case they accidentally harm someone.
While Good Samaritan laws vary by state, they generally provide legal protection from liability when your assistance results in unintended consequences. The Good Samaritan law usually applies to those performing CPR on someone whose heart has stopped or swimming out to help a drowning victim.
The law does not protect you if your actions were reckless or careless. For example, you hastily moved someone from the wreckage of a car accident, and your action eventually caused spinal damage. You can be sued for civil or even criminal damages if you made the situation worse or further injured the person.
Michigan’s Good Samaritan Law
In Michigan, the state’s Good Samaritan law protects medical first responders, emergency medical technicians, paramedics, and other medical personnel who render assistance to an injured person at the scene of the accident. The law, however, does not protect lay people who administer first-aid or other help to strangers. This means that if you cause harm, aggravate their injuries, or kill a person due to negligence or misconduct – even if unintentional – they could sue you later.
Fortunately, many courts take into account whether the help you extended was altruistic and reasonable. Of course, what is considered reasonable is debatable. But if you acted in a way that an ordinary person in the same situation would have acted, it could compel the court to take your side.
If you have special qualifications or abilities such as knowledge of emergency medical techniques, then the analysis would need to extend to what a paramedic or EMT would have done in the same situation. The court would then look at whether you acted outside the scope of your skill-set or knowledge base. If you did, then it could be interpreted as negligent.
How Do Good Samaritan Laws Affect Licensed Medical Professionals?
One of Michigan’s Good Samaritan laws (MCL 691.1501) specifically states that licensed medical professionals such as physicians, doctor’s assistants, or nurses rendering emergency care while off-duty are not liable if they cause harm when helping. However, if their actions amount to gross negligence or willful and wanton misconduct, they lose their immunity. For example, if a doctor stops on the road to help an injured motorist, they cannot be held responsible in civil court unless the assistance provided was unreasonable and reckless.
Michigan Laypeople Have No Immunity From Liability
Under Michigan Good Samaritan laws, laypeople do not have immunity from injury liability. If you are not a licensed medical professional and you try to help someone, you could be liable for injury damages.
However, a specific Good Samaritan law (MCL 691.1504) protects a layperson who, in good faith, voluntarily performs CPR or uses a defibrillator on an accident victim. They won’t be held liable even if they cause harm unless the act or omission constitutes gross negligence or willful and wanton misconduct.
If you performed first aid treatment and the person you helped wants to sue you, they would need to prove negligence. They have to show that you did something unreasonable and that your actions caused further harm.
For example, if you help an injured biker who appears to have a broken leg, you could be held liable if you cause further damage to that leg. This is because you do not have the necessary medical knowledge, and the biker would have been better off if you had waited for a qualified medical professional to arrive on the scene.
If someone you helped wants to sue you, please call The Clark Law Office. We have lawyers who are experts in car accidents and motorcycle accidents, and they can begin working on your case immediately!