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Can I Be Sued for Helping Someone after a Car Crash?

Have you ever been the first person on the scene after a car accident occurs? Obviously, in that circumstance, it makes sense to immediately call 911 to obtain the assistance of law enforcement and medical professionals. But what if it appears that someone involved in the accident needs immediate assistance? How much should you or any other bystander try to help? After all, we live in a litigious society and there is always the possibility that someone injured in the accident could consider suing the bystander who rendered aid under the belief that the bystander made the injuries worse.

While you may not have specifically considered this conundrum, it turns out that this is an issue that is frequently addressed by legislatures across the country, including in Oregon. You may even have heard references to “Good Samaritan” laws, without knowing the details of how they work. In this article, we will address Oregon’s Good Samaritan law, and what it may mean to you.

What is a Good Samaritan Law?

In general, Good Samaritan laws provide some amount of liability protection to a person trying to help someone in distress in an emergency situation. The person rendering assistance is considered the “Good Samaritan.” Our example has focused on a car accident, but the issue could arise in many other scenarios. The amount of protection received by the Good Samaritan varies by jurisdiction. Therefore, the law of the state where the accident occurs must be reviewed.

Why Good Samaritan Laws Matter

In the example above, we posed the question of whether a bystander should render assistance to someone injured in an automobile accident. While this scenario is common, it’s perhaps even more likely to be an issue if you are involved in an accident. Sometimes, multiple people are involved in a collision and one person may be in a position to render aid to those who are injured more severely.

But consider this possibility. What if the person rendering aid does so ineffectively and actually harms another person?

For example, assume a Good Samaritan drags an injured person from a car and that person becomes permanently paralyzed. Assume further that experts determine that paralysis would have been avoided if the injured person had not been moved. Should the person who is harmed have the right to sue the Good Samaritan who rendered aid? Should the Good Samaritan have limited liability? After all, most people favor public policy that supports assisting those in need. This is the difficult balance the law must address.

Oregon’s Good Samaritan Law

Oregon’s Good Samaritan law is codified at Oregon Revised Statutes section 30.800 and provides a limitation on liability to those who provide “emergency medical assistance.” What constitutes “emergency medical assistance” is defined in detail by the statute, to which we have provided a link. However, the liability limitation is not absolute. A person can pursue a legal action if the complaining party can prove that the person providing assistance was grossly negligent. Thus, the Good Samaritan is provided with protection, but only so long as he or she is not grossly negligent.

Call with questions

If you have suffered injuries as the result of a car accident, we know you will have many questions about your rights and the best way to proceed. We are here to answer your questions in a free consultation. The hard-working attorneys at Nelson MacNeil Rayfield are experienced personal injury attorneys and handle cases all across Oregon. We can help you evaluate your case, and if you need legal representation, we will be there to fight for you. Our firm believes that the only way to make Oregon safer for everyone is to hold wrongdoers accountable for their actions.