Whether you drive every day or infrequently, you never expect to witness an accident. If you do, however, the next question you might ask yourself is, do you stop? Do you help them? No law says you must stay and help the victims. You may even worry that if you do help, it could create the basis for that person to sue you for doing something wrong. In Virginia, the Good Samaritan Law can protect you in these circumstances. If you or a loved one experience a car accident and require legal assistance, contact the experienced auto accident attorneys at Montagna Klein Camden at 757-622-8100.
What Does the Good Samaritan Law Cover in Virginia?
The Good Samaritan law in Virginia generally protects individuals who attempt to help and render aid to victims at the scene of an emergency. As long as you act in what is considered a reasonable manner to help that person, this law can shield you from liability.
This means you are immune to civil liability if injuries or death occur when rendering emergency assistance or aid to an individual at risk for further injury or under life-threatening conditions.
The law itself is broadly encompassing when it comes to emergency care situations. Some of the general inclusions are:
- Removing or helping to remove a person from a vehicle that causes further threats, such as a burning car or a crashed vehicle stopped in a dangerous location (e.g., an intersection or blind curve in a roadway)
- Administering first aid at the scene of an accident or other emergency
- Performing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or using an automated external defibrillator (AED)
- Assisting in the delivery of a baby if you are unable to get to a doctor’s office quick enough
- Applying pressure to stop arterial bleeding
- Using an epi-pen to administer epinephrine
- Administering Naloxone for an opioid or other drug overdose
- Assisting at the request of law enforcement or other rescue personnel, such as to remove hazardous material
Rendering such emergency care, with or without training, can make all the difference in the life of that person. Fortunately, the Code of Virginia supports such actions and protects you in most situations.
Why Does Virginia Have the Good Samaritan Law?
Virginia has a Good Samaritan law to encourage citizens to help each other in emergency situations where quick action is necessary and there is not enough time for medical professionals to arrive. Car accidents and other emergencies can happen to anyone, anywhere. Often, it is the minutes that follow that count the most. Knowing that an individual can stop and help without being held liable for injuries or death can limit hesitation and save lives.
The Virginia Good Samaritan law is also valuable for defining what constitutes a good Samaritan act and provides the conditions that must be met to avoid liability.
Specifically, the Good Samaritan law will apply if:
- You act in good faith, with the only intention being to help someone avoid further harm or death.
- Your action is voluntary, and you do not expect compensation.
- No gross negligence (reckless or wanton misconduct) occurs; that is, you do not act unreasonably in any way.
- You made reasonable attempts to contact first responders, including the police, fire department, or paramedics, by calling 911 and reporting the circumstances and need for emergency medical assistance.
What is the Penalty for Violating the Good Samaritan Law?
For the Virginia Good Samaritan law to shield you from legal liability, you must act reasonably and in good faith. Defining these terms specifically can become challenging and problematic, but doing so is essential should your actions come into question.
As for reasonable, the actions of the good Samaritan must match that of a reasonable and prudent person when put in the same or similar situation. Good faith is a term that refers to the state of mind or purpose behind your actions.
Those who, in some definable way, fail to act reasonably and in good faith when assisting someone in an emergency care situation violate the Good Samaritan Law. This violation may be from wanton or willful misconduct or reckless behavior, and the other party may decide to sue for civil damages.
For purposes of this section, examples of what can violate the law include:
- Rendering emergency care in the form of chest compressions that break the victim’s ribs without checking for a pulse or breathing.
- Pulling an injured person from a burning car and placing them in further harm’s way, such as directly in the path of oncoming vehicles.
For each case, an in-depth analysis will be imperative to determine what is reasonable and how actions and any poor judgment may have played a role. For this, seeking legal advice from an experienced personal injury attorney will be invaluable.
If you are an accident victim, you must seek legal advice as soon as possible. You will want to confirm that your agreed-upon settlement from the insurance company covers all accident injuries, including those resulting from a good Samaritan act. Since personal injury cases can take a long time to settle, medical bills can pile up and add more stress, which you do not want to happen.
What Should You Do if You Witness a Car Accident?
If you witness a car accident, you should take the following steps while at the scene.
Get to Safety
Get to safety as quickly as possible. Accidents can cause dangerous situations for you and other drivers. Park far enough away from the danger and initiate your flashing hazard lights. If you see a safe way to proceed to the aid of the car accident victim, do so. If not, stay put and wait for emergency personnel to arrive.
Immediately call 911 to report the accident, its location, and as many details as possible to a dispatcher. Never assume someone else has already done so.
Check for Injuries Requiring Medical Attention
Assess the car accident victims as you approach the motor vehicle while keeping your safety in mind at all times. Talk to those that are conscious and ask about their injuries. Do not attempt to move them or render aid unless circumstances warrant quick action. Wait for emergency medical services (EMTs) personnel to arrive.
Give a Statement
Once the police arrive, you will need to give a witness statement. Inform them that you are an eyewitness and give details to the questions they ask. Mention if you had to provide medical care to the victims, and give your full name and contact information.
What Will You Do in an Emergency?
Being in an accident or witnessing one can be an overwhelming experience. You may sustain injuries or attempt to help someone as a good samaritan. Whichever of these emergency situations you find yourself in, seek the legal advice of Montagna Law in Hampton Roads. We proudly serve those in Virginia Beach, Norfolk, Chesapeake, Portsmouth, and Suffolk by reviewing the circumstances surrounding the emergency situation, negotiating with insurance companies, and representing you in court if it needs to go that far. Find out how we can help you specifically by calling 757-622-8100 or using our online contact form to schedule a free consultation.