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The Good Samaritan Rule in Negligence Cases

WHAT IS THE GOOD SAMARITAN RULE?

When a person chooses to protect someone else, but does so in a negligent manner that causes further harm to the person protected, the “Good Samaritan Rule” (also called the voluntary undertaking rule) may apply. If so, the “Good Samaritan” (a reference to the Biblical story of the same name, wherein a person with no duty to help assists an injured traveler left at the side of the road by robbers) may be legally liable to the injured person for the harm that results from the Good Samaritan’s actions.

However, this isn’t a reason to stop assisting those in need. The Good Samaritan rule has specific elements, all of which must be met for legal liability to occur.

WHEN CAN A PERSON INCUR LEGAL LIABILITY FOR HELPING SOMEONE ELSE?

When a person helps or assists another person, (s)he may incur legal liability if

1. The person who intervenes had no duty to act.

2. The person who intervenes fails to use due care in assisting (or attempting to assist).

3. The failure to use due care: (a) increases the risk of physical harm to the victim, or (b) actually causes additional or increased harm to the victim.

Note that the Good Samaritan’s failure to exercise due care generally must be the cause of the increased harm or risk.

Essentially, the rule means that when a person who has no legal duty to act decides to help another person, the person who intervenes must act with reasonable care, and not with negligence.

How to avoid liability? By intervening, if at all, responsibly and in a way that is not, itself, negligent. As with many other areas of negligence law, a person who behaves in a reasonable manner that does not increase the risk of harm to others and that complies with any existing legal duties, is generally reasonably safe from negligence claims.

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Disclaimer: THIS ARTICLE IS FOR INFORMATIONAL PURPOSES ONLY, AND DOES NOT CONSTITUTE LEGAL ADVICE OR CREATE AN ATTORNEY-CLIENT RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN THE AUTHOR AND ANY PERSON. Your rights and experiences may vary. Never use an online article (including this one) to evaluate your legal claims. Speak with an experienced lawyer promptly to obtain a personalized evaluation of your claims, possible damages, and options. You may lose or compromise your rights if you delay in consulting legal counsel. Negligence claims are complicated and fact-dependent. If you believe you have a claim against someone who injured you, a lawyer who represented you in a previous lawsuit, or any other type of legal claim, consult an experienced lawyer immediately for an evaluation of your personal rights and claims.

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