The Good Samaritan Law

In most cases when someone sees an emergency, they take action to help however they can. But as good as our intentions may be, there is a risk involved when deciding to help someone in need. If an untrained person responds in an emergency situation, they may do more harm than good. And at the same time, there is a large chance the individual may substantially help or even save the person's life. In our society we want someone to come to our rescue if we are in need. The Good Samaritan law protects and promotes these actions.  

What is the Good Samaritan Law Definition?

The Good Samaritan law offers limited legal protection to individuals who attempt to provide reasonable assistance or help to a person in an emergency. Usually, in emergency situations, every second counts, and decisions have to be made immediately. With Good Samaritan laws in place, responders are encouraged to provide assistance without worrying about potential consequences or ramifications. 

What is the Purpose of Good Samaritan Laws?

The Good Samaritan law is in place to help ease any fears and take out the hesitation and question of “ should I help them”. The Good Samaritan law can break down barriers and bring the potential to save lives. Before these laws were set into place good people were being sued for trying to help in emergency situations. One of the main purposes of the law is to have protection for citizens who volunteer their time and talents in compassionate generous acts for those in need. Just like the law, a good samaritan is someone who takes action and does acts of kindness or compassion to others. There is nothing more heroic than stepping in and helping someone in a serious accident. Accidents can happen anytime anywhere, hopefully, medical personnel are nearby, but chances are a stranger is going to be the first responder. Honorable individuals willing to apply their talents and help in a crisis deserve to be protected, not liable for their assistive actions. 

What States Have the Good Samaritan Law?

All 50 states have a Good Samaritan law. The Good Samaritan law varies, with each state having its own set of exact rules and regulations. Some states only protect doctors and trained professionals, while others cover common everyday civilians. The types of emergencies covered by the Good Samaritan law also vary by state. For example, in Oklahoma, the Good Samaritan law only applies to CPR and rescue breathing, unlike in Pennsylvania and Virginia which cover all types of emergencies. It is important to know the laws of the state you reside in or states you may be traveling to. 

What Does the Good Samaritan Law Not Protect & What Does the Good Samaritan Law Protect?

The only reason an untrained average civilian should be providing any kind of medical treatment or first aid is if they happen to be nearby when an emergency begins. To be covered under the Good Samaritan act in Illinois the individual must not be the cause of the emergency situation. If the individual in the emergency situation is conscious you should ask for permission before giving them any first aid. If they do not want assistance you should not provide treatment and call 911. If the victim is unresponsive or unable to communicate you can provide first aid and call 911. An individual will not be covered under the Good Samaritan law if gross negligence was part of the treatment provided. This is defined as what a normal person would do or what an average human of standard competence would do. 

What is a Good Samaritan Law Example?

To give an example, in Illinois an individual suffering from sudden cardiac arrest collapses on the street and is unresponsive. A bystander notices and runs to the individual and finds the nearest AED. Following the instructions, he provides CPR and the most treatment he can, resulting in broken ribs for the patient. In this example, the individual who stepped in and attempted to help the best they can, would not be held liable for their actions. 

  1. The individual noticed a serious emergency 
  2. They were not the cause of the emergency
  3. No gross negligence was experienced
  4. The victim was unconscious so they were unable to ask for permission.

All steps were taken to try and help the individual and everything was completed in good faith. Even though the damage, in the form of broken ribs, occurred to the individual in distress due to the treatment provided by the bystander they cannot be held liable. Each requirement of the Good Samaritan law was followed and the bystander saved an individual's life. This is just one of many examples of how the Good Samaritan act can take effect.

Does the Good Samaritan Law Cover Overdoses? 

In Illinois, the Good Samaritan law has a section for the overdose protection act. Many people witnessing or experiencing a drug overdose are too afraid to call 911 for help for fear they may be charged and arrested. The Good Samaritan law overdose act protects individuals calling 911 for medical attention for a suspected drug overdose. This protects the user and the caller from felony charges as long as they are not the drug provider and they have under 40 grams of prescription opioids or under 3 grams of heroin, cocaine, morphine, or other drugs. 

Does Illinois have a Good Samaritan Law?

Yes, Illinois has a Good Samaritan law. The law covers individuals assisting during an emergency event and does not hold them liable for actions taken to help the individual in distress. In Illinois, a bystander has no “ duty to treat”. This means you have no responsibility to provide medical attention in an emergency situation. If you're walking down the street and see a woman collapse or a tree fall on top of a man, you technically have no duty to stop and help the individual. 

What are the Good Samaritan Law Requirements in Illinois? 

Even after calling 911, it can take medical responders 10 to 20 minutes or more to arrive. And every second counts, especially during cardiac emergencies and drug overdoses. Taking action and providing aid as soon as possible can be a life or death difference. The human response when we see an individual in crisis is to act, but sometimes following your human instincts can put you at liability. The requirements for protection under the Good Samaritans act are 4 fold:

  1. You are only providing aid as a result of a serious emergency
  2. You were not the creator of the emergency situation
  3. The care provided did not include gross negligence
  4. If the individual in the emergency is conscious and able to speak he or she must give permission to the first aid provided.

Illinois Good Samaritan Law

The Good Samaritan law encompasses many situations and types of emergencies. Knowing your risk and liabilities is important. When you see a person in need, take a few minutes out of your day and try to help as much as you can. This law is here to encourage civilians to take action and help their fellow neighbors and strangers. In times of emergency, depending on one another is key, and the Good Samaritan law is here to protect those who do.