Health & Safety Code 1799.102 HSC
HSC 1799.102 – California’s Good Samaritan Law
California’s Good Samaritan Law – Table of Contents
- HSC 1799.102 Overview
- HSC 1799.102 Sentencing
- HSC 1799.102 Prosecuting
- HSC 1799.102 Defending
- HSC 1799.102 – Hire Us
All 50 states have some version of a good samaritan law enacted, and California is no different.
A “good samaritan” is a person who provides assistance to another during a period of distress or need, without the thought of compensation or personal gain.
Good Samaritan laws were established to help insulate people who genuinely try to aid victims during or at the scene of an emergency, even if they are not professionally licensed or trained to do so.
These statutes were created to shield responsible civilians who render help in dire situations from civil suits following what some may say are heroic acts. Others, however, may call such actions negligent and try to initiate civil suit for damages.
California’s Good Samaritan law is governed by the Health and Safety Code. HSC Section 1799.102 provides for limited liability in situations where a person was acting to aid another in good faith.
The provision reads in part:
(a) No person who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders emergency medical or nonmedical care at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission. The scene of an emergency shall not include emergency departments and other places where medical care is usually offered. This subdivision applies only to the medical, law enforcement, and emergency personnel specified in this chapter.
(b) (1) It is the intent of the Legislature to encourage other individuals to volunteer, without compensation, to assist others in need during an emergency, while ensuring that those volunteers who provide care or assistance act responsibly.
(b) (2) Except for those persons specified in subdivision (a), no person who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders emergency medical or nonmedical care or assistance at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for civil damages resulting from any act or omission other than an act or omission constituting gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct. The scene of an emergency shall not include emergency departments and other places where medical care is usually offered. This subdivision shall not be construed to alter existing protections from liability for licensed medical or other personnel specified in subdivision (a) or any other law.
(c) Nothing in this section shall be construed to change any existing legal duties or obligations…
HSC § 1799.102
The original language of California’s Good Samaritan law declared that a person could not be held liable for civil damages for an act or omission that occurred while rendering “emergency care” at the scene of an emergency. Following a particularly contentious Court of Appeals case, however, lawmakers reworded the law to broaden those protected under its limited liability. The law now includes any individual who renders “emergency medical or nonmedical care or assistance.”
Nevertheless, the law does not apply to anyone who’s act or omission constitutes “gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.” See id. Gross negligence is considered a reckless disregard for the safety of others. It is a major deviation from a reasonable standard of care and is recognized as the extreme indifference to or reckless disregard for the safety of others.
It is generally considered a good thing and a societal benefit when people help one another in moments of crises. Emergency personnel cannot always arrive on the scene immediately, and therefore help from others during this crucial time can be the difference between life or death.
California public policy favors encouraging people to help those who are at a risk of harm or in dangerous situations and to that end, California created it’s Good Samaritan statute. The law’s ultimate purpose is to provide protection against lawsuits for those who aid others during unseen emergency situations.
Lawmakers believed that without a Good Samaritan law, aid would not be rendered as people would be scared of being sued for any accidental pain or injury inflicted during the attempted rescue. Seconds are of critical importance in emergency situations and any additional time delays could cost lives, especially if EMTs or first responders cannot arrive immediately.
Therefore, California’s legislature believed it was of the utmost consequence to enact its statutory Good Samaritan law.
In California there is no legal duty to rescue or assist another who is in a dangerous or emergency scenario. Therefore, someone cannot be held liable for not helping during an emergency—in this situation, neither a lawsuit nor criminal charges can be filed.
However, under California’s Health and Safety Code, a person whose act or omission constitutes gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct, can be held civilly liable (i.e., the Good Samaritan law will not be applicable to insulate their actions).
As stated above, gross negligence is a reckless disregard for the safety of others; essentially a person acting without the requisite amount of care for another.
This is where things can get tricky. If a Good Samaritan provides medical assistance at the scene of a car accident knowing that he or she has no medical training or experience, can the same be considered gross negligence? There is potential within the statute to argue that a Good Samaritan can be liable for damages under certain circumstances.
Nonetheless, a Good Samaritan acting in good faith will usually not be liable for civil damages for rendering aid at the scene of an accident.
HSC Section 1799.102 is silent as to the criminal liability of a Good Samaritan. However, it is fair to say a person could face criminal charges if he or she were to commit a crime during the rendering of emergency care.
For instance, what if a person were to rescue a driver from a car accident, but in the course of the rescue, the help further injures the driver’s leg? The rescuer would not be liable to the victim for the injury to her leg, but if he were to take the victim’s wallet after rescuing her and then fleeing the scene, he would be criminally liable for theft.
HSC Section 1799.102 provides that if a person renders emergency medical or nonmedical care at the scene of an emergency, that person will not be civilly liable for harm resulting from an act or omission if:
- The assistance was offered without any expectation of payment or reward;
- The aid was made in good faith; and
- There was no gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.
Note: the statute does not cover actual medical care professionals, emergency departments and/or hospitals, so if an emergency care provider causes an injury while attempting to aid a person in crisis, the victim may have the basis for a legitimate personal injury lawsuit.
If you or your loved one has been threatened with a lawsuit in regards to providing aid during an emergency, do not hesitate to contact one of our knowledgeable defense attorneys. Working with a skilled attorney will help your case tremendously. The ideal attorney can research and apply the right defenses to your particular case, and prove that you were providing aid within the bounds of the law.
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