Are nurses covered under Good Samaritan laws?

Many people don’t have a clear grasp of what protections Good Samaritan laws offer to the public. The subject gets even murkier when applied to medical professionals like nurses.

If someone is injured in a car accident and a passerby stops to render aid, these laws protect them from legal repercussions being brought against them by the injured party (or the survivors, in the event of death). The Good Samaritan laws apply to all, even those in the medical profession.

There is a loophole, however. If a medical professional stops to give aid, but the attempt is a gross aberration from the typical standard of care or involves willful wrongdoing on the medical professional’s part, there could be liability involved. Gross negligence can mean that additional harm or injury was inflicted on the victim.

Additionally, the medical professional cannot charge the injured person for any of the services he or she renders. A final caveat is that if emergency aid is provided, the provider has a legal duty to remain with the injured party until he or she has stabilized or another medical professional with the same or additional training takes over. Failing to do so could constitute abandonment.

Providers also must not provide aid or treatment that is beyond their skill set or education. For instance, a nurse coming upon a car wreck could assist the injured party by maintaining an open airway and doing CPR, but he or she could not attempt to open the chest and perform cardiac massage to restart a heart.

Those who feel that the care rendered to them under Good Samaritan laws fell far short of the standard of care and significantly worsened their condition might be able to seek compensation from a medical professional by filing a medical malpractice claim.

Source: RN Central, “Good Samaritan Laws — Do They Cover Nurses?,” Jennifer Olin, BSN, RN, accessed Nov. 04, 2015