You’ve probably thought through what you’d do if you experienced a car accident. But have you ever stopped to consider how to react if you see a wreck?
It’s a great question because some states do have statutes that hold “first responders,” or the first people to come upon an accident scene, responsible for offering aid to the extent that they are able. These are called “Affirmative Duty to Assist” statutes.
States that recognize some form of affirmative duty statutes include California, Hawaii, Massachusetts, Minnesota, Rhode Island, Vermont, Washington, and Wisconsin.
Then there are “Liability Protection” statutes. You may know them by another name: “Good Samaritan” laws. Unlike affirmative duty statutes, which are only in effect in a few states, all 50 states and the District of Columbia recognize some form of liability protection for those who offer aid to victims.
Affirmative Duty to Assist Statutes in Your State
These statutes vary widely from state to state. They may apply only to particular healthcare professionals, or only in certain situations. Some hold witnesses responsible for giving reasonable aid to a victim, while others require them only to report the crime to police.
For example, California’s Mandatory Emergency Services statute applies only to health care facilities, while the Rhode Island statute specifies that a person with knowledge that “another person is a victim of rape, murder, manslaughter, or armed robbery” must report the crime to police as soon as they are reasonably able, if they are at the scene of the crime.
If you are a resident of a state with some form of affirmative duty statute, we encourage you to read more about the details in your particular state in A Comparative Study of Laws that Protect First Responders Who Assist Accident Victims. It’s a long title, but a worthwhile read!
Good Samaritan Laws in Your State
Although every state’s code includes some variety of a Good Samaritan law, no two are alike. The general premise of a Good Samaritan law is that it protects someone from being sued or otherwise penalized if they act to help a victim who needs medical help or is in physical danger. You can read about your state’s particular statutes here.
Good Samaritan Laws in Arkansas
We hear two common misconceptions about helping people after an accident. The first: “You’re likely to be sued if you attempt to give someone emergency care and it doesn’t have a good outcome, so it’s best not to do anything.” The second: “My state’s Good Samaritan law means that anyone who stops to help an accident victim is protected and won’t face any consequences if things go badly.” Neither statement is true.
While there are no laws in Arkansas that require you to stop and give aid to victims of a car accident, you may feel compelled by compassion and concern for others. In that case, you should be familiar with the Arkansas Good Samaritan Law.
This statute is found under the “Medical Professions” subtitle in the Arkansas code, so you might assume that it applies only to people who work in the medical field. While the statute’s primary purpose does seem to be directed toward medical professionals, it also includes a section about how the Good Samaritan law applies to ordinary citizens. Two main takeaways:
- Any health care professional who in “good faith” gives emergency care at the place of an accident will not be legally liable, as long as his or actions were not “willful misconduct” or “grossly negligent.” If, for example, a doctor performs CPR on the man who has a heart attack while sitting next to him in a movie theater, and the doctor is not able to resuscitate him, he or she can’t be sued for trying to help. If he attempted open-heart surgery in the middle of the theater, however, that would be a different matter and would likely lead to legal action.
- A person who is not a health care professional can also be protected from legal backlash when giving emergency care, with a few conditions. First, they must believe that the “life, health, and safety” of a person could be helped by taking reasonable actions to provide emergency care. Next, they must be acting in “good faith” to remove or lessen the threat. Again, the actions must not be willful misconduct or grossly negligent.
Taking Reasonable Action
Should you find yourself in a situation where an accident victim needs help, you can decide how to respond by asking yourself these three simple questions:
- Is this person’s health or life in immediate danger?
- Can I help lessen that danger by doing something?
- What reasonable action can I take?
Arkansas Accident Victims Find Help at Taylor King Law
Have you been injured in a car wreck that was not your fault? Filing a personal injury claim can be very complex, but the lawyers at Taylor King Law can help. Everyone who calls or visits one of our 6 Arkansas office locations will get a free, no-obligation consultation with an attorney. Find out if you have a case today. Get started by calling 1-800-CAR-WRECK or submitting a case evaluation form on our website.