This weekend, many of us celebrate and appreciate the sacrifice that Jesus Christ gave 2,000 years ago by giving up his own life for our lives. Nowadays, the only people who may are regularly asked to give up their lives for others are our first responders and our military personnel.
With that being said, almost every sacrifice of time or attention (however small) is similar to the giver giving some small part of his or her life. This is like making a Christ-like sacrifice in small ways every day. Nonetheless, people sometimes avoid helping others based upon the belief that, “I could possibly make the situation worse or even get sued.”
For this reason, the law often includes “good Samaritan” protections to people who give of their time and effort to help others. Essentially, good Samaritan protections protect people from liability when performing certain functions of uncompensated service to others.
The classic instance of good Samaritan law involves automated external defibrillators. AEDs are contained in boxes about the size of a large dictionary attached to walls in public places. AEDs are designed to be used on heart attack victims while professional medical assistance is on its way to the location. AEDs can be thought of as a sort of simple version of the paddles shown in hospitals and movies in the past, where the acting physician yells, “clear!”
Ohio law protects non-medical professionals who may attempt to use an AED on a heart attack victim until an EMT arrives. If an AED is used in good faith, even if the AED is used improperly, the AED operator will not liable for improper use.
Thus, the law gives some protection to people when assisting others when those other people experience personal medical emergencies.
Ohio law is even more general and comprehensive when it comes to help during emergencies or disasters as a whole.
In the instance of someone coming across an injured motorist, the “good Samaritan” can legally try to help the injured person even if the injured person’s situation is actually made worse by the help, as long as the helper acts in good faith, without fear of legal implications.
Ohio’s good Samaritan law also applies to protect a good-doer from liability in some instances where the assistance given is not medical.
A few years ago, a truck driver was trapped between the trucker’s trailer and a loading dock. The trucker was not hurt but could not free himself from being trapped at that spot. A good-doer stopped to help the trucker. Unfortunately, as a part of trying to free the truck driver, the good-doer’s actions worsened the situation, resulting in the truck driver breaking his leg. In that instance, the good-doer was not liable for the trucker’s broken leg.
None of us will be asked to hang on a cross this weekend. Few of us will be asked to even take a bullet for someone else. However, we can give of our lives by helping others and very often not be punished if our help is imperfect.
Lee R. Schroeder is an Ohio licensed attorney at Schroeder Law LLC in Putnam County. He limits his practice to business, real estate, estate planning and agriculture issues in northwest Ohio. He can be reached at Lee@LeeSchroeder.com or at 419-659-2058. This article is not intended to serve as legal advice, and specific advice should be sought from the licensed attorney of your choice based upon the specific facts and circumstances that you face.