I assisted an elderly lady who I saw fall on the sidewalk when I was on my way home from work. I am a RN working in a cancer center and a nursing home. I took the woman to the closest ED and gave the staff details of the event. Am I protected under the Good Samaritan Law in the event of any unforeseeable problems? The woman fell on her face and sustained a cut to her forehead, which was bleeding, and abrasions to her right cheek. I used my handkerchief and a lot of tissue to pressure dress the cut until we got to the ED. Did I do the right thing? It didnt even dawn on me to call 911 on my cell phone. I just got out of my car, assisted her and took her in my car to the ED instinctively without thought of anything else but to help her.
Nancy Brent replies:
Your actions with the elderly lady for whom you provided care after she fell are to be commended. Many may have just walked by. It is not known if the state in which you practice requires healthcare providers to provide care at the scene of an accident or emergency, but if not, you voluntarily took on the role of the good Samaritan, which was lucky for the elderly woman.
Good Samaritan laws do protect an individual, licensed or otherwise, who stops at the scene of an accident or at an emergency and provides care to the individual. Most often, the parameters of the law are that the person providing help has no prior notice or knowledge of the persons injury or pre-injury condition and is not compensated for the care provided. If these parameters are met, the good Samaritan is not liable for any injuries that arise due to ordinary negligence during the care of the person.
An interesting legal issue in your question is if such protection continues for the good Samaritan when he or she transports the injured person in his or her car to the ED. Usually, an ambulance is called as soon as care is being provided in order to ensure that a thorough evaluation of the injured persons condition is done and further needed care is provided as soon as possible. If the injured person sustains no further injury, clearly no legal liability would be possible under those circumstances. However, if the persons condition worsened, or you were in an accident on the way to the hospital and the individual you were transporting was injured, issues of liability would arise.
You might want to consult with a nurse attorney or attorney in your state to obtain specific information about the state good Samaritan act and your responsibilities under that law. The attorney also can advise you of any case law that has been decided under the statute. Such information can guide you in the future should you take on this role again.