If you are one of the first people at the scene of an emergency, such as a car crash, it may be in your instinct to offer immediate assistance to those involved. In the past, there was a risk of facing liability for unintentional injuries or property damage caused by providing emergency care. Today, however, most states have passed good Samaritan laws that provide immunity from civil liability in these circumstances.
Within the context of civil law, a good Samaritan refers to someone who renders emergency first aid to others. Good Samaritan laws protect these individuals from facing liability, or legal and financial responsibility, for damages they unintentionally or negligently cause while assisting in an emergency. Here is a breakdown of Connecticut’s good Samaritan law, found in Section 52-557b of the Connecticut Code:
An example of this law in action is if you pulled someone out of a wrecked vehicle in a good-faith attempt to protect him or her from further harm, you would not face civil liability for exacerbating a spinal cord injury and causing the victim permanent paralysis. Since you were acting as a good Samaritan to try to save the victim, state law would provide civil immunity – even if you are guilty of ordinary negligence. There are limits, however, to what the good Samaritan law covers.
The immunity provided by Connecticut’s good Samaritan law covers ordinary negligence, but it does not apply to acts or omissions that constitute gross, willful or wanton negligence. Gross negligence is a severe level of carelessness or inattention. Willful or wanton negligence shows a conscious indifference to the consequences of an action. It is an act that is intentionally done despite it being unreasonable or foreseeably dangerous to others. The good Samaritan law also does not cover intentional misconduct.
In addition, someone cannot use Connecticut’s good Samaritan law to avoid liability if that person negligently caused the original accident. For example, if you were texting and driving and struck a pedestrian, then made the pedestrian’s injuries worse by pulling him or her out of the road, you cannot avoid liability for the pedestrian’s injuries – despite a good-faith attempt to render aid – since you were the one that placed the pedestrian in peril to begin with.
The good Samaritan law encourages people to lend a helping hand at the scene of emergencies. In some scenarios, however, rendering aid is a legal obligation. After a car accident in Stratford for example, a driver must pull over at the scene and render aid to anyone injured. Failing to do so could result in a hit-and-run criminal charge. If you are the first to the scene of an accident, do your best to assist those in need of emergency care. As long as you are acting in good faith, you will be protected from civil liability for damages caused under the Connecticut good Samaritan law.