The news that actor Dustin Hoffman saved the life of a jogging Australian lawyer who collapsed with a heart attack in London’s Hyde Park prompts the question of what is the law regarding Good Samaritans.
The two time Oscar winner and star of hit films Rain Man and Tootsie took on the real life role of Good Samaritan when he tended to the collapsed Aussie and helped him until medics arrived and resuscitated him.
When he recovered the Aussie lawyer didn’t remember seeing the Hollywood star who once played a grump who rescued people from a crashed plane in Accidental Hero. But the Aussie lawyer said he owed Dustin Hoffman his life.
But what if something had gone wrong? What if the lawyer had died while the Hollywood star was looking after him? What if you rush to pull someone from a burning car and they lose a limb due to your action? Can a Good Samaritan be sued by the family of a dead person they were trying to save?
In the past some people were concerned that if they saw an accident such as a car accident and stepped in to help, they were open to being sued if they caused an injury while pulling the victim out of the car.
Some hospital staff voiced concerns that they would not be covered by liability insurance if they tended to someone in trouble outside hospital grounds.
But the good news is that in NSW this problem was resolved ten years ago with the passing of what became known as the Good Samaritan law with changes to section 57 of the Civil Liabilities Act 2002.
Under the law a Good Samaritan is described as a person who “in good faith and without expectation of payment or other reward, comes to the assistance of a person who is apparently injured or at risk of being injured.”
It declared a Good Samaritan would NOT incur any personal civil liability for anything they did when assisting a person who is apparently injured or at risk of being injured.
But, and this is an important but, this protection does not apply if the Good Samaritan was the original cause of the injury or was the person who placed the victim in danger.
Nor does it apply if the Good Samaritan’s ability to exercise reasonable care and skill in rendering assistance is impaired by alcohol or drugs.
Nor does it apply if the Good Samaritan fraudulently claims to be a health professional, a police officer or an emergency services officer.