Many of us have passed by a bad accident, wishing there was something we could do to help out. Some of us may not be able to contribute more than checking on the victims and calling 911 to get paramedics to quickly come to the scene. However, others may have had some basic first aid skills or even advanced medical training that could save victims’ lives, yet they may have still been reticent to stop and render aid. Why, might you ask?
The concern among many is that by helping, it may exacerbate the victim’s injuries or even cause their death. For example, how many times have you heard the admonition not to move someone who has potentially suffered a neck or back injury, but to instead allow paramedics to arrive and stabilize their head and strap them down to a backboard, out of fear that you could be held liable for any potential negative outcome?
If this has deterred you from rendering support when you’ve come upon an accident before, then learning more about the Texas Good Samaritan Act may make you feel more comfortable in doing so in the future.
What Should I Know About the Good Samaritan Law in Texas?
The latest Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) data from 2021 is that 4,489 people died in auto accidents. That rate marks a 15.22% increase over the 2020 statistic. At least 46.2% of vehicle occupants were determined not to have been restrained when their crash occurred.
You’ve likely heard that how fast a person involved in an accident receives aid may dictate whether a person survives or dies. What if applying pressure to a person’s wound or attempting cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) during a wait for paramedics was all it took to keep someone alive until trained professionals arrived?
This state law, codified within the Texas Civil Practice and Remedies Code section 74.151, aims to encourage individuals to stop and check on their peers that have suffered unexpected emergencies, like Houston car crashes. This law protects those well-intentioned persons who stop and check or attempt to render aid, as well as emergency hospital personnel, from being held personally liable for any adverse outcomes an accident victim suffers.
Examples of Situations That May Trigger Protections Under the Texas Good Samaritan Law
Historically speaking, this Texas law has most often been cited by first responders who have utilized automated external defibrillators (AEDs) to restore a patient’s pulse after a cardiac arrest caused by an accident and even in drug overdose scenarios. It doesn’t just apply to paramedics or certified or licensed medical professionals, though. It may be cited in the following instances as well:
- A situation in which a pool goer notices someone drowning, jumps in to save them, and administers CPR, breaking their rib in the process
- A motorist passing by notices an automobile on fire and realizes someone is trapped inside, attempts to pull them out and causes that person to suffer a secondary injury (like a broken arm) in the process
- A situation in which a volunteer in a public service capacity (such as a volunteer firefighter) attempts to render aid
- A scenario where a concerned citizen notices a baby left alone in a vehicle on a hot day and breaks the window to free them
It’s important to note that the Texas Good Samaritan Law applies not only to secondary injuries or illnesses inflicted upon individuals but also to personal property. For example, if there’s a situation where your vehicle is in such disrepair that it must be towed from an accident scene and it sustains further damage in transit, then this law also would generally prohibit the vehicle’s owner from suing the tow truck driver.
Exceptions to the Texas Good Samaritan Law
As with any law, there are some exceptions. One notable one is that this law doesn’t shield the person who caused the accident from liability—even if they attempt to render aid to their victim in the incident’s aftermath.
Section (b) of this state code also spells out how this law doesn’t apply to anyone with fraudulent motives. This rule applies if someone raises a false alarm by calling 911 or is deemed to have only offered care to another with the explicit goal of recovering compensation for doing so. An example of this would be a paramedic or any agent working on behalf of a similar entity. This law states that any such party could be held liable for any adverse outcomes.
Another notable exception is a situation where the actions of the person rendering aid don’t provide assistive care. This exception aims to allow for individuals who give the impression they’re there to help but don’t exercise any good faith in doing so.
The Texas Good Samaritan Law also doesn’t shield a person from liability if they engage in wanton or willful negligence when rendering emergency aid, which may entail displaying:
- Careless disregard for how their actions may hurt others
- An intent to inflict harm upon the victim
Factors That Dictate Whether the Texas Good Samaritan Law Applies
Houston car accident lawyers like ours at Buckingham & Vega Law Firm weigh the following factors when determining whether victims are eligible to sue someone who attempted to render aid if their actions exacerbated the outcome:
- No trained paramedics had arrived at the scene, and thus the patient wouldn’t have received care if it hadn’t been for the good Samaritan while waiting
- The person administering aid in alignment with the Good Samaritan Law didn’t also cause the injury accident
- Whether the person receiving aid consented to the potentially life-saving care
- The care administered was reasonable or appropriate instead of reckless
A judge or jury asked to step in and assess liability will be instructed to apply the reasonable person standard when doing so. If it appears that they took actions that align with what anyone else in a similar situation would have, and there’s no evidence of them having been grossly negligent, then holding them liable for those secondary injuries or illnesses won’t be a viable option.
Seeking Help in Texas Good Samaritan Cases
Sorting out liability in any personal injury case can be challenging. However, doing so when there are multiple potentially liable parties, as is the case when the Texas Good Samaritan Law is at play, can be even more difficult.
Our Buckingham & Vega Law Firm attorneys are quite experienced at helping clients navigate situations where they initially suffered injuries in an accident that were compounded by ones carried out by a third party. While the help offered by a good Samaritan is often well-intentioned, there are situations in which bad actors step in and help for the wrong reasons, causing preventable outcomes. This is when our Houston legal team can help. Reach out to us for a no-obligation consultation to discuss your case.