Can You Sue a Good Samaritan For Causing Injury?
Hi. I’m Indiana personal injury attorney David Holub.
Not long ago, someone called and said “my cousin was seriously injured when a car swerved into her lane of travel in order to avoid a car that had stopped in the middle of the road to provide emergency medical care to a man lying on the edge of the roadway, and to make matters worse the car that crossed the centerline had no insurance, is there any way to help my cousin?”
Obviously, the car that crosses the centerline and causes the crash due to crossing the centerline will have to answer for that wrongful conduct.
But let’s ignore the car that crossed the centerline since there is no insurance.
Does the car that stopped in the middled of the roadway share any responsibility for the crash? Logically, yes. Every driver knows you cannot just stop in the middle of the highway and park your car there. Doing so can easily cause an accident.
But the caller says the driver of the car that stopped in the roadway, did so to get out and help someone who was hurt and lying at the edge of the road.
The act of stopping to provide medical assistance calls into question the Indiana Good Samaritan immunity statute.
The Good Samaritan law immunizes good Samaritans who do something or fail to do something, which serves to injure someone, while they are acting to provide or arranging to provide medical treatment or care for an injured person.
So, if a motorist stops to help another motorist and a person is injured during the process of providing assistance the person providing assistance is immune from being held liable if they are negligent in providing assistance.
The Good Samaritan liability shield does not however, stretch to cover acts or omissions while providing emergency care that reach the level of “gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.”
Gross negligence is a conscious voluntary act or omissions that is in reckless disregard of the consequences to another party.
Example of gross negligence might be attempting to tie a rope to a disabled car that you know has no functioning brakes and attempting to pull that car out of the ditch and you end up pulling it into oncoming traffic.
Willful or wanton conduct is where one knows that a particular a course of misconduct will likely result in probable injury, and yet one proceeds upon that course of conduct with a deliberate indifference to the consequences.
An example of willful and wanton conduct would be a person stopping to assist a car crash victim, seeing gasoline puddled on the pavement and smelling gas fumes from the overturned car, and nevertheless proceeding to run to the car with a lit cigar clenched in their teeth.
If you would like to learn more about personal injury law, we encourage you to listen to our Personal Injury Primer Podcast where we break down the law into simple terms, provide legal tips, and discuss topics related to personal injury law.