There was a story where a traveler, while on his way to his decision, was robbed and stripped of his clothing. Nobody helped the traveler aside from a passing Samaritan who would not gain anything from helping him. This is a parable about goodwill and altruism. In today's society, the number of people who would do what the Good Samaritan would are getting lesser. One of the reasons people would rather turn away from people in need, especially during an emergency, is because they are afraid of getting in trouble. During an emergency, i.e., an accident and emergency responders are nowhere to be found, when altruistic people, who without the intention of asking for incentives, tended to the person in need are sometimes sued by the victim or the relatives of the victim for causing more harm than good. To protect these people from getting in trouble by acting on goodwill, California enacted HS 1799.102.
Health and Safety Code HS 1799.102
HS 1799.102, also known as California's Good Samaritan law, is the statute that aims to protect people who, like how the good Samaritan helped the traveler, offered or attempted to offer medical or non-medical care in an emergency. If the person's action caused more harm than good, the Good Samaritan Law aims to protect him/her from being given civil liabilities.
Civil liabilities or civil damages are monetary amounts that the defendant owes the plaintiff if he/she lost the case. It is there to act as compensation for the damages inflicted upon the victim.
- Compensatory damages - damages that act as compensation for the troubles that the plaintiff had to endure:
economic (lost wages, medical bills, property damages) and non-economic (mental and psychological pains and sufferings)
- Punitive damages - damages that are awarded to the plaintiff to punish the defendant.
The statute declares that:
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. An emergency scene 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. The Legislature intends 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.
Except for those persons specified in the previous condition, 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. An emergency scene 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 persons specified in the previous condition or any other law.
Criminal Liabilities, Negligence and Misconducts
HSC 1799.102 aims to free people who acted out of goodwill from civil liabilities; this, however, does not protect them from being charged with other offenses. As a matter of fact, the Good Samaritan Law does not completely protect people from criminal liability. The person in question can still face criminal charges if he/she committed a crime while providing emergency care. Depending on the severity of the crime, the accused can face:
- misdemeanor, and/or
- felony charges.
An infraction commonly includes petty and small-scale crimes. Offenders usually do not have to face incarceration, but they do get warnings and fines. On the other hand, a misdemeanor is a more serious offense. Offenders can face jail time in county jails and a fine of up to one thousand dollars ($1,000). Lastly, a felony is the most severe among the levels of criminal offenses. Convicted felons are usually sent to county jails, if not state prisons, for more than a year (depending on the charges) and a penalty of up to ten thousand dollars ($10,000) or more.
The two most common offenses linked to the Good Samaritan Statute are Gross Negligence and Willful Misconduct. Gross negligence is, be it intentional or unintentional, irresponsibly ignoring social responsibilities necessary for a given situation, i.e., an emergency. At the same time, willful misconduct is the act of deliberately doing things meant to harm a person like someone in need of emergency medical attention, for example.
California's Good Samaritan Law California Health and Safety Code 1799.102 is a highly nuanced statute. It encourages people to perform altruistic deeds with protection from civil liabilities. However, it can also be prone to abuse and misrepresentation. Common legal disputes that arise under this law include:
- Person A was charged with civil damages because he/she tended to a person in need, or
- Person A committed malicious acts under the guise of emergency response.
If someone has been in situations resembling the mentioned conditions, it would be in their best interest to settle the disputes with help from our experienced criminal attorneys at the Office of Raoul Severo in California.
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