Imagine a scenario where you’ve just arrived at the post office, and you see a stranger trip and fall. In the fall, they cut their arm badly. You rush over and use your sweatshirt to apply pressure to the wound to slow the bleeding until emergency services arrive. A few months later, you’re surprised to receive a summons and complaint.
The person who fell says that you were negligent in the way that you applied pressure to their arm. They want you to pay them damages because of the way you tried to help. Nevada’s Good Samaritan Law is in place to protect you in this scenario, and your experienced personal injury lawyer can help you understand how this law may apply to your case.
What is Nevada’s Good Samaritan Law?
Nevada’s Good Samaritan Law allows bystanders to help in an emergency without having to worry about facing legal liability for the care they provide. Under Nevada’s Good Samaritan Law, when a person encounters an emergency, and they make an honest effort to provide help, they’re not liable if they make mistakes.
Nevada law 41.500 says that any person who offers gratuitous, good-faith help during an emergency is exempt from legal liability because of their actions.
To have the protection of Nevada’s Good Samaritan Law, you must:
- Give assistance
- In an emergency situation
- Help without pay
Why Does Nevada Have a Good Samaritan Law?
Nevada lawmakers want to encourage people to help others during an emergency. In many cases, people who see an emergency really want to step in and help, but they don’t want to have to worry about legal liability for extending a helping hand.
The help that a friend or stranger can provide in the immediate aftermath of an emergency can significantly reduce the severity of a victim’s injuries or even save a life. Good Samaritan Laws try to make it fair to the people who step in and help by protecting them from liability for damages that result from their assistance.
Exception for Gross Negligence or Intentional Harm
There are a few exceptions to Nevada’s Good Samaritan Law. Even though you’re generally shielded from legal liability if you offer aid, you still can’t be grossly negligent or cause intentional harm.
That means you can’t make obvious errors when you offer emergency care. To act with gross negligence means to act with deliberate or reckless misconduct. In other words, if you do something that’s clearly wrong when you provide care, you can still face legal liability for the results of your actions.
There Must Be an Emergency Present for the Good Samaritan Law to Apply
Good Samaritan Laws only apply after there’s an emergency present. If you help someone when there’s no emergency present, you can face liability for giving aid negligently. That’s true even if an emergency arises after you try to help.
One famous Nevada case illustrating this exception is Buck By Buck v. Greyhound Lines. In that case, a retired police officer encountered a vehicle stalled on the highway. There were no other cars present and no immediate danger. The retired officer told the vehicle driver to turn her lights off to save her car battery.
An oncoming Greyhound Bus driver didn’t see the dark vehicle on the road and hit the driver and vehicle occupants. They suffered severe injuries. The Nevada Supreme Court ruled that Nevada’s Good Samaritan Law did not apply to the retired police officer because the emergency didn’t occur until after he acted negligently.
You May Not Use the Good Samaritan Law as a Defense If You Cause the Emergency
Good Samaritan Laws apply only to innocent bystanders. If you cause the emergency with your actions, Nevada’s laws don’t protect you. In that case, the court shouldn’t give the jury an instruction about Good Samaritan Laws, and you may face legal liability for your negligence.
You May You May Not Use the Good Samaritan Law If You Have a Duty to Give Aid
In some cases, Nevada law imposes a duty to render aid. For example, if you run a daycare and one of the children in your care faces an emergency, you must help. The same goes for when you’re an innkeeper, and one of your guests has an emergency. If you have a duty to help, Good Samaritan Laws don’t apply to you.
You May Not Use the Good Samaritan Law If You’re a Paid Medical Responder
The same goes for paid medical responders. If you work in an ambulance rescue service for paid compensation, you’re not protected from legal liability if your care is negligent. If you’re a paid emergency responder, you have a duty to provide reasonable care.
New Good Samaritan Law for Opioid Overdoses
Nevada recently extended its Good Samaritan Law to opioid overdose prescriptions. Legislators passed Nevada Law 435C in 2015. The law allows medical professionals to prescribe an anecdote for a potential opioid overdose without facing legal liability for the results of their actions.
The medical professional must otherwise have the authority to write prescriptions. Also, any person who dispenses the anecdote is immune from legal liability. The goal of this law is to reduce opioid overdose deaths by helping people get the anecdote medicine when they need it.
Do You Have to Give Aid?
Even though the law encourages people to give aid, if you don’t have a specific duty because of a special relationship with the person in the emergency, you don’t have to stop and give aid. You’re free to just walk on by. Some people might say that you have a moral obligation to help someone in distress. But legally, Nevada law allows a person to decline to help a stranger even in an emergency.
How Can An Injury Lawyer Help?
If you have a personal injury case and are wondering about the effects of Nevada’s Good Samaritan laws, it’s important to speak with a qualified injury attorney. They can evaluate your case to determine how Nevada’s Good Samaritan Law might impact you, and how you can build your case to respond to the other side’s arguments.