What is California’s Good Samaritan Law?

Many people who witness a person in need want to do what they can to help. It’s not uncommon to see at least one person rush to the aide of someone involved in an accident, or who is being mistreated by another, but many people ignore the situation, doing nothing more than calling for emergency help. They may be afraid that they’ll be sued if they cause more damage to the person in need. When you fear someone might take legal action against you, you don’t want to go out of your way to offer help. Fortunately, California lawmakers protect citizens who offer help to those in need.
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The Good Samaritan Law is designed to offer protection for those who do the right thing in a perilous situation. When a person is injured, sick, in peril, or in a situation that requires help, bystanders can act to help these people without fear of legal repercussions. Take for example, a bicyclist who is injured and falls to the side of the road in traffic. A bystander rushes to help this person out of the road before they’re hit by a car. Unfortunately, the injured bike rider suffers a dislocated shoulder when the bystander yanks him or her out of the road quickly.
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The bystander’s quick thinking prevented the injured rider from being hit by a car, which would have certainly caused worse injuries or even death. Later, the biker decides to sue the bystander for the cost of medical bills associated with the bystander working quickly to get him or her out of harm’s way. The Good Samaritan Law protects the bystander from culpability from this legal action. The bystander did the right thing by saving the injured rider from being hit by a car. Protecting people who work to help those in need makes it possible for those in danger to receive help, rather than suffering because of the hesitation of bystanders worried about the legal ramifications of their actions.
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California’s Good Samaritan Law 
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“No person who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders emergency medical or non-medical care at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission,” is the law verbatim. This is listed in section 1799.102 in the California Health and Safety Code. So long as the act is not committed with negligence or misconduct, bystanders helping in an emergency situation are safe from any legal ramifications of their assistance.
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The law changed in 2009, following a case originating in 2004, in which a woman stopped to help the driver of a car in an accident. The car was in danger of catching on fire, and the woman inside was unable to get out on her own. The bystander’s actions caused further damage to the victim, which paralyzed her. The victim chose to sue the woman who took action in this emergency situation, and she won. The law at that point only covered those who offered emergency medical care in this situation. In 2009, the law was amended and expanded to cover any citizen offering any form of help in an accident.
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Helping those in need is a natural instinct for many people. Refusing to help someone in need simply because the law doesn’t protect you should not be a decision that anyone has to make. As a Roseville CA lawyer could explain, the law is designed to allow us to take a stand to help those who are suffering, at risk, or in peril. By taking this law into account, we are protected when we make the choice to do the right thing.
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Meyer and YeeThanks to our friends and contributors from Meyer & Yee, LLP for their added insights.