Many states have “rescue doctrines,” “volunteer protection” acts,” or “Good Samaritan” laws to encourage and protect individuals who choose to assist others in emergencies, while awaiting emergency personnel. In Florida, Statute section 768.13, the Good Samaritan Act (GSA), is a law that provides civil immunity to those that render emergency care gratuitously and in good faith. The law applies to any person, even those licensed to practice medicine. Lawmakers designed the GSA to ensure that medical professionals use their skills to assist others in emergencies, without fear of a lawsuit. It is important to note that Florida does not maintain a law that requires people to aid or assist an injury victim; however, if a person chooses to do so, they must exercise due care. Courts evaluate “due care” under the reasonable person standard, and determine whether a similarly situated person would have acted in the same way.
Despite Florida’s GSA, there are some situations where a helper may be found liable. First, the person may be liable if they do not exercise due care and increase the victim’s harm or injuries. Helpers may also be liable if the victim relied upon the helper’s assistance and suffered additional injuries due to that reliance. Moreover, healthcare workers who assist in an emergency may be held liable if their actions showed a “reckless disregard” of the foreseeable consequences. The law defines “reckless disregard” as conduct that a professional knew or should have known would result in an unreasonable risk of harm to the victim. The GSA includes a provision that allows a person to call for emergency help after an overdose without risk of criminal charges related to simple drug possession.
In addition to state and local Good Samaritan laws, the federal government maintains a similar law under the Federal Protection Act. The Volunteer Protection Act (VPA) provides immunity to nonprofit and government agencies for harm caused by their acts or omissions on behalf of their organization. The VPA does not require that an emergency declaration is in place for the immunity to apply. The protections apply to uncompensated volunteers for ordinary negligence within the scope of the volunteer’s responsibilities. However, the immunity is not applicable if the volunteer engages in willful or criminal misconduct, gross negligence, or with a conscious disregard for the safety of others.
On the other end of the spectrum, Florida’s rescue doctrine imputes liability on those that create a dangerous situation for another person. For example, a recent news report described a harrowing situation where a 21-year-old Navy airman died while trying to rescue crash victims. While the man was assisting, a pickup truck traveled off the road and slammed into him. In cases like this, a rescuer who wishes to recover for their damages must establish specific facts. They must prove that the person causing the emergency was negligent, as a result of the person’s negligence, the victim was in imminent danger, and the rescuer acted reasonably.
Have You Suffered Injuries in a Florida Accident?
If you or someone you love has suffered injuries or died because of another’s negligence, you should contact the injury attorneys at the Law Offices of Robert Dixon. Our law firm attorneys have extensive experience successfully representing clients in Florida car accident cases, premises liability cases, defective product claims, and more. We consistently provide our clients with compassionate representation and fierce advocacy, helping them get the damages they deserve. Contact our office at 877-499-4878, to schedule a free initial consultation with an attorney at our firm.