Good Samaritans and Bad Injuries: When Can They Be Held Liable?

Most accidents and injuries occur because someone does something they aren’t supposed to do. A driver may fail to stop at a stop sign, or a landlord may forget to fix a faltering step. But sometimes injuries happen even when those involved have the best of intentions. Bringing personal injury claims against these “good samaritans” in Iowa can be complicated.

Who Are Good Samaritans?

Good Samaritans are individuals who may come to your aid in an emergency, or after an accident. Under Iowa Law, a good Samaritan is any individual who, in good faith, renders assistance under such circumstances, as long as the person does not receive money for their assistance. Iowa’s law also provides that individuals who assist with a workplace accident, such as a fellow employee, can be considered Good Samaritans.

Common Good Samaritans identified in the statute, and widely recognized, include:

  • volunteer paramedics
  • volunteer firefighters
  • volunteer emergency medical technicians
  • volunteer ambulance operators

However, an individual does not have to fall into one of these categories. Even strangers who help you after an accident can be Good Samaritans.

How Are Good Samaritans Protected from Liability?

Under Iowa Code section 613.17, any individual who is acting in good faith and in a reasonable manner at the time he or she offers assistance is not liable for any damages that may result from the care provided. Additionally, these individuals are not liable for their failure to do something that resulted in damages, such as a failure to provide certain medical assistance.

Good Samaritans are also protected from any injuries or damages sustained when they are transporting an individual who has been hurt. So if injuries are made worse while trying to get someone to a hospital, Iowa’s Good Samaritan Law protects from lawsuit.

Good Samaritan laws can be extremely frustrating to individuals who have been injured or had their injuries exacerbated by emergency responders who were trying to assist them. But the laws do serve an important purpose. They allow trained professionals, and passersby, to respond to an emergency event without fear of doing something wrong and being sued, which in the end, can save lives.

Being a Good Samaritan Is Not a Complete Shield from Liability

While Iowa’s Good Samaritan Law does protect emergency responders from liability in many scenarios, it is not a complete ban on personal injury lawsuits. Iowa’s statute provides that responders are protected only as long as their actions are not reckless.

For example, while a trained emergency medical technician may know how to stabilize an individual who has been hurt, splint a broken bone, or insert an IV, it would be reckless for a random stranger on the street to attempt to take these types of medical steps. If a patient is further injured because of such recklessness, he or she may indeed be able to sue the stranger who acted so inappropriately.

Personal Injury Attorney Jonathan D. Schmidt Can Advise You on Whether Your Emergency Responder Acted Recklessly or Unreasonably

If you believe that you were treated inappropriately in the aftermath of an emergency or accident, it may be possible that Iowa’s Good Samaritan Law will not preclude your claims. To speak with personal injury attorney Jonathan D. Schmidt about his experience and find out more about how he can help, contact us online or at (319) 423-3031.