Can I be Sued for Choosing to Help? Ohio

The following is a video transcript.

Historical origins of the Good Samaritan aside, the idea that people want to help others in need is still relevant today. In line with that idea, I wanted to discuss the effect the law in Ohio has on you, the prospective Good Samaritan.

Whether it be an accident at your home, the neighbor’s home over the holidays, or a total stranger you have simply come upon, you are afforded some protections under Ohio law should you decide to give help. In 1977, the Ohio Legislature enacted the first Good Samaritan Law, exempting most people from liability when providing first aid care to people on site injured in such things as explosions, fires, and other accidents. That law is still in the books today.

Essentially, this protects you from being sued by the individual you’re attempting to help, should something you do cause them to suffer a worse injury. It’s obvious that the law should support the idea that people should feel free to help others who are injured without the fear of being sued by the same person they were trying to help in the first place.

Let’s do a quick example for illustration: You come upon a traffic accident, and there are no visible signs of injury, but you help remove the driver of the wrecked car and comfort him on the side of the road until help arrives. Maybe you’re worried about the car catching fire. Whatever your reasons, they are well-motivated. Turns out in moving him, you’ve caused further trauma to his neck or back, and he suffered perhaps more loss of function in his legs than he might have. Ohio law will protect you in these situations as well. The Ohio Supreme Court issued its decision in 2016 in Carter v. Reese, wherein they extended the Good Samaritan protections to those in immediate need regardless of whether it was medical in nature or not.

A question I get all the time: Do I have to help somebody?

Basically, the answer is no. Ohio law does not mandate that you come to the aid of another person by defending them from someone else who may be trying to cause them harm, or to render first aid to them if they’re injured. In layman’s terms, you generally have no duty to rescue or duty to defend a person in distress. There are a few exceptions. If you are an adult, and in a position of responsibility for a child’s well-being, and that child is in need of assistance; or you cause the person to become in danger and in need of help through some action of your own; or, you already started to help, then you might be legally obligated to continue to provide help unless something changes and it becomes perilous for you to continue to render aid.

Now, you have a basic sense of the legal protections afforded you in Ohio. Remember, never take any money or remuneration of any kind as that can invalidate these protections, and don’t ask for anything in return for your help. All that being said, look out for your fellow man, and should you come to their aid, you can be confident you are protected under Ohio law.

Get certified with our online First Aid course for Gunshot Wounds through the U.S. LawShield 2A Institute. We will teach you specifics on the application of a tourniquet and other critical life-saving techniques.

It’s up to you. So take the initiative, pursue the knowledge, and learn those critical skills that are necessary to keep yourself and those around you alive until help arrives.

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