Imagine a scenario where you have just arrived at the post office, and you see a stranger stumble and fall. In the fall, their arm was badly cut. She rushes in and uses her sweatshirt to put pressure on the wound to slow the bleeding until emergency services arrive. A few months later, you are surprised to receive a summons and a complaint.
The person who fell says you were negligent in the way you applied pressure to their arm, they want you to pay them for the way you tried to help. The Nevada Good Samaritan Law is in effect to protect you in this scenario, and your experienced personal injury attorney can help you understand how this law may apply to your case.
What is Nevada’s Good Samaritan law?
Nevada’s Good Samaritan Law allows bystanders to help in an emergency without having to worry about facing legal responsibility for the care they provide. Under Nevada’s Good Samaritan Law, when a person encounters an emergency and makes an honest effort to provide help, they are not responsible if they make mistakes.
Nevada Law 41,500 says that anyone who offers free, good faith help during an emergency is exempt from liability for their actions.
To be protected by the Nevada Good Samaritan Law, you must:
- Give assistance
- In an emergency situation.
- Help without pay
Why does Nevada have a good Samaritan law?
Nevada lawmakers want to encourage people to help others during an emergency. In many cases, people who see an emergency really want to step in and help, but don’t want to have to worry about the legal liability for reaching out.
The help that a friend or stranger can provide immediately after an emergency can significantly reduce the severity of a victim’s injuries or even save a life. Good Samaritan laws try to be fair to the people who intervene and help by protecting them from liability for damages that result from their assistance.
Exception for gross negligence or willful damage
There are some exceptions to the Nevada Good Samaritan Law. Although you are generally protected from legal liability if you offer help, you still cannot be grossly negligent or intentionally cause harm.
That means you can’t make obvious mistakes when offering emergency care. To act with gross negligence means to act with deliberate or reckless misconduct. In other words, if you do something that is clearly wrong when you pay attention, you may still face legal responsibility for the results of your actions.
There must be an emergency present for the Good Samaritan law to apply
Good Samaritan laws only apply after an emergency is present. If you help someone when there is no emergency, you may face the responsibility of negligent giving help. That is true even if an emergency arises after trying to help.
A famous Nevada case illustrating this exception is Buck By Buck v. Greyhound Lines . In that case, a retired police officer found a vehicle stopped on the road. There were no other cars present and there was no immediate danger. The retired officer told the driver of the vehicle to turn off the lights to save the battery.
An oncoming Greyhound Bus driver did not see the dark vehicle on the road and struck the driver and vehicle occupants. They suffered severe injuries. The Nevada Supreme Court ruled that the Nevada Good Samaritan Law did not apply to the retired police officer because the emergency did not occur until after he acted negligently.
You cannot use the Good Samaritan Law as a defense if you cause the emergency
Good Samaritan laws apply only to innocent people. If you cause the emergency with your actions, Nevada law does not protect you. In that case, the court should not instruct the jury on the laws of the Good Samaritan, and you may face legal liability for your negligence .
You may not be able to use the Good Samaritan Law if you have a duty to help
In some cases, Nevada law imposes a duty to assist. For example, if you have daycare and one of the children in your care is facing an emergency, you should help. The same is true when you are an innkeeper, and one of your guests has an emergency. If you have a duty to help, the laws of the Good Samaritan do not apply to you.
You may not use the Good Samaritan Law if you are a paid healthcare professional
The same is true for paid medical responders. If you work in an ambulance rescue service to get paid compensation, you are not protected from legal liability if your care is negligent. If you are a paid emergency responder, you have a duty to provide reasonable care.
New Good Samaritan law for opioid overdoses
Nevada recently extended its Good Samaritan Law to opioid overdose prescriptions. Legislators passed Nevada Law 435C in 2015. The law allows medical professionals to prescribe an anecdote for a possible opioid overdose without facing legal responsibility for the results of their actions.
Otherwise, the medical professional must have the authority to write prescriptions. Furthermore, anyone who dispenses the anecdote is immune from legal liability. The goal of this law is to reduce opioid overdose deaths by helping people get the anecdotal drug when they need it.
Do you have to give help?
Even though the law encourages people to provide help, if you don’t have a specific duty due to a special relationship to the person in the emergency, you don’t have to stop and provide help. You are free to just walk by. Some people might say that you have a moral obligation to help someone in distress. But legally, Nevada law allows a person to refuse to help a stranger even in an emergency.
How can an injury lawyer help?
If you have a personal injury case and are wondering about the effects of Nevada’s Good Samaritan laws, it is important to speak with a qualified injury attorney. They can evaluate your case to determine how the Nevada Good Samaritan Law might affect you, and how you can develop your case to respond to the other party’s arguments.