What Is the Good Samaritan Law? - Definition, History & Cases

Instructor: Earl Crowe

Earl has over 20 years of lecturing experience and has a master's degree in criminal justice.

To help or not to help? That is the question that must be answered before deciding to rush into action in order to help someone who needs emergency assistance. Learn more about the Good Samaritan law, its definition, history, and real life cases.


In many states, the Good Samaritan law offers legal protection to individuals who render aid to any injured person. As long as the Good Samaritan uses 'reasonable care' when providing assistance, he or she can not be sued or prosecuted if the person they are trying to help is unintentionally injured further.

The key to this definition is the phrase reasonable care. If a Good Samaritan does not use reasonable care, the law will not protect him or her. Every state has its own version of the Good Samaritan law, however, and some of the distinctions are very important to remember.

History of the Good Samaritan Law

The Good Samaritan laws were named after a parable told in Luke 10:25-37 of the Bible. This story is known as the Parable of the Good Samaritan. The Bible verses tell the story about aid that was given by one traveler from Samaria to another traveler of different religious and ethnic beliefs who had been beaten and robbed by bandits.

State Laws

Every state has its own version of the Good Samaritan law. It is important to research the regulations or laws for the state you live in. For example, if you live in Alabama, protection under the Good Samaritan law is only afforded to rescuers who are medically trained, public education employees, or any lay person assisting a victim suffering from a cardiac arrest. For instance, let's say you live in Alabama and are not medically trained. One day, you come across a car accident and remove the victim from the car. In doing so, you further injure the victim. The Good Samaritan law in your state would not cover you because you went beyond the scope of protection.

However, if you live in Vermont the Good Samaritan law is very different. It actually orders anyone in the state who comes across an incident to help those in need. Simply put, legal action can take place against someone for not helping.

After reviewing the Good Samaritan laws for each of the fifty states, there were only two common provisions in all of them. First, in order to be covered under the Good Samaritan law, the trained rescuer must not receive monetary compensation. Secondly, the trained or untrained rescuer must act without gross negligence, recklessness, or intentional misconduct.

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