If ever you passed by or witnessed an accident, the first thing that comes to mind is fear of being sued for negligence. Many people will most likely hesitate to help. This is one problem that has caused emergencies to end up in deaths. People do not want to help, not because they do not care about the victim but because they fear the possible consequences of their actions. What if they commit a mistake while helping a stranger? What if they are charged with personal injury cases? Many would rather wait for emergency help to arrive.
Good Samaritan laws have been enacted to encourage lay rescuers to voluntarily help others during an emergency without fear of the rescuer being sued by the victim in case of an error or further injuries. In Canada, Good Samaritan laws are provincial acts, with each province having its own act.
Although these laws may vary depending on the province, they generally protect lay rescuers (someone who does not have obligation to provide help or does not receive compensation for the service) against lawsuits arising from their voluntary act of helping. On-duty policeman or fireman, healthcare professionals (such as doctors or nurses) in a healthcare facility, and anyone whose nature of job is to ensure safety of the community are not covered by the immunity guaranteed by the Good Samaritan laws.
If the victim is conscious and aware of the situation and refuses the help you provide, it is usually best to follow the person’s demand. If the victim is a child or minor, make sure to ask the consent of the parent or guardian. However, if the victim is unconscious and no one is around to give consent, step in and provide help as much as you can.
Good Samaritan laws apply to everyone, not just medical professionals. As long as you act reasonably, competently and do not go beyond your level of expertise, then you can be covered by these laws. What “expertise” here means is the level of knowledge and skills that you learned in first aid course at work, in school or elsewhere. Moreover, the Good Samaritan laws require the rescuer to take care not to cause further harm. For example, the rescuer should not move the victim who has or is suspected for neck or back injuries, unless it is absolutely necessary.
The key is to offer your help whenever necessary while waiting for professional help to arrive. If you are a trained first aider, you would most likely know when and how to provide first aid.