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Can You Be Sued For Helping Out?

Dec 2 2019

A look at BC’s Good Samaritan Law

It is natural for people to want to stop and help when they see someone who is in an accident, especially if they are first on the scene. But what happens if you lend assistance to someone and that person ends up in worse condition than if you had not tried to help them? Can the injured person turn around and sue you? In BC, the Good Samaritan Act lays down a foundational groundwork to prevent that from happening.

BC’s Good Samaritan Law

The Good Samaritan Act states that if someone needs emergency medical services because they are unconscious, ill or injured at an emergency scene or accident – and that emergency scene or accident caused the injured party’s condition – then neither those you lend assistance to nor their family members can hold you liable for the injuries or death you cause when providing medical services.

There is, however, one caveat to this law: your assistance or actions at the scene of the emergency or accident cannot be seen as being grossly negligent.

Gross Negligence

In simple terms, gross negligence involves doing something that completely disregards the safety or life of another party. It is often viewed as reckless or careless behavior. It could even be discounting or ignoring a situation that worsens a problem or causes further injury.

In other words, if your actions – or lack thereof – are a conscious violation of someone’s expectation to be safe at an accident or in another situation, then your actions could be seen as being grossly negligent.

For example, you may be one of the first people at the scene of a car accident and may find someone in the vehicle who has an apparent broken leg and is complaining of severe pain in their back:

  • If you move this individual or force them to get out of the car before the EMTs arrive, your actions could be seen as being grossly negligent. Why? It is because standard emergency first aid training tells us that an injured person will likely be safer and will experience less pain if they are not moved from the emergency scene before EMTs arrive.
  • If, however, you feel that the vehicle could be hit by another vehicle or might catch on fire, then you may want to consider moving the injured person. This is to ensure that he or she is moved away from a situation that could result in devastating harm or certain death – even if this action itself causes additional pain or more serious injury.

What Can You Do?

It is always a good idea to help out at an accident whenever possible. In BC, actions that you take to prevent further suffering or that preserve life at the scene of an emergency will usually be viewed through the lens of the Good Samaritan Act.

You should always call 911 for emergency assistance when arriving at the scene of an accident.  911 operators will typically ask that you stay on the line until the EMTs arrive. If the injured person is conscious, talk to him or her and try to keep them awake, but do not shake them. Make sure to let the operator know if you are afraid to move them due to the severity of their injuries or the conditions outside the vehicle.

It is important to relay the injured person’s condition as best as you can. The 911 operator may ask you to take certain steps that will give them a better understanding of the situation. The 911 operator can then guide you on the appropriate steps to take to make the injured person as comfortable as possible.

Ultimately, you want to make sure the person is tended to the best of your ability – without causing additional pain or inflicting a more serious injury – while you wait for the EMTs to arrive. Contact RDM Lawyers to find out more about the protections afforded under the Good Samaritan Act and the application of this legislation.

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