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What is the Difference Between Good Samaritan Laws in Different Countries?

By Garry Crystal
Updated: May 16, 2024

Good Samaritan Laws were devised as a way of protecting people who come to the aid of others. They stipulate that any person who comes to the aid of an injured or ill person cannot be blamed for any further injury or illness that results from the aid given. People may hesitate to give aid for fear of being wrongly prosecuted for the person's accidental injury or death. Not all places have such laws, and in some, people are required to provide assistance.

These laws can vary from country to country, but the concept is universal. The Good Samaritan Law takes its name from the parable told by Jesus in the Bible, in which a Samaritan stops to help an injured stranger. In some places, unless there is a previous caregiver relationship, no one can be made to come to the aid of another. Other places, such as the Canadian province of Quebec, legally require people to help someone they know is injured.

Assistance given for financial remuneration is not protected by Good Samaritan Laws. People such as security guards or those who give aid as part of their employment are also typically not protected by these laws. In addition, the aid giver must not leave the injured or ill person until professional medical assistance has arrived.

Good Samaritan Laws ensure that the person giving assistance is not legally liable for any harm or death that befalls the injured person. A person usually cannot give any help to a conscious injured person without his or her consent, or the act can be considered assault. If the injured or ill person is not conscious or is delusional, however, then consent is not required.

In some countries, such as Ireland and Lebanon, such laws do not exist. In Italy, the minimum required assistance is to call for an ambulance if an injured or ill person is found, although Italians who provide assistance are usually protected from court action. They can still have legal action taken against them if any harm comes to the person, however.

In France, it is a legal requirement to help someone who is injured. If an onlooker does not help, then he or she can be charged with failing to respect the law. In Germany, a person should provide help if it is required, and he or she is immune from prosecution if the assistance turns out to be harmful. The general consensus throughout the world seems to be that it is best to help someone who is injured, although in these days of litigation, people may want to check the laws in their location first.

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Discussion Comments
By kentuckycat — On Aug 27, 2012

@jcraig - I have a friend who is a teacher and was actually telling me about this one time. Oddly enough, she actually does teach in Connecticut. In that state and a lot of other states, I think teachers performing CPR or other things on students are also protected by Good Samaritan immunity.

The problem comes because, like the article said, people who are paid for a service do not fall under the law. Obviously, teachers would technically be getting paid if they performed CPR on someone during school hours.

As my friend related it to me, a teacher can choose whether or not to help someone who is injured at the school. Of course, the vast majority of people are going to try to help someone, so there needs to be a law to protect the teachers, since they are usually the first line of help for a student.

By jcraig — On Aug 26, 2012

Any time I hear about a Good Samaritan law I always think of the final episode of Seinfeld. In that one, the group is taking a trip to Europe and end up having a layover somewhere in Connecticut. One of the characters is taping them walking down the street when they witness someone getting robbed. Instead of helping the person, they just laugh, because they are from New York and see it all the time. Eventually, they are all arrested. I don't know if the laws like this ever apply to just helping a random person on the street, but it made for a funny scenario in a sitcom.

Related to that, though, I am curious if there are any places where you having specific training in CPR or another technique makes you responsible for at least trying to help somebody. For example, if I know CPR, can I be charged for not trying to help someone having a heart attack?

By JimmyT — On Aug 25, 2012
@titans62 - Yes, you are right that each state has a different policy. I can tell you that I have lived in Illinois and Kentucky, and each of those states have the basic guidelines that you can't be prosecuted for helping someone in good faith. There are no parts of the law saying that you have to come to someone's aid if they are injured.

If you're interested, I'm sure there are a few websites explaining the Good Samaritan acts in each state. Like I said, if there are any states requiring someone to take action, I am not aware of them but would be interested to know if some states have that.

By titans62 — On Aug 24, 2012

@anon79942 - I completely agree. The way I look at it there shouldn't even need to be a law that protects people who are trying to come to the aid of someone who is injured. The only reason the law has had to come about in the first place is because I am sure there have been hundreds of people who saw an easy way to make money or wanted to blame someone else for their injury.

I was not aware that any places actually forced you to come to the aid of someone else. Does anyone have any ideas about what the laws are in the United States? I am sure that each state does things lightly different, but I would venture that the laws are relatively consistent from place to place.

By anon79942 — On Apr 25, 2010

A Good Samaritan Law, in my view promotes cohesion and positive integration among may different races. However, the drawback happens when some people (victims) fail to appreciate the faith of their rescuers and consider any trivial failure as a potential money spin.

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