Good Samaritan Law Raises Questions

As a personal injury and Arizona wrongful death lawyer, the fact that we are writing about the story may surprise many people. First, we do not practice law in California and we only help the seriously injured victims of personal injury in Arizona. Also, since the California Supreme Court ruled that there is liability for those who cause injury while acting as a Good Samaritan, some may believe that as a personal injury lawyer we would applaud the increased ability to file lawsuits toward victims.

However, we think this decision is a tough call and, at least based upon the limited information available, expect a jury will not find liability against the “good Samaritan” who helped out at the scene of the terrible car accident that left the plaintiff a paraplegic.

In this particular case, Lisa Torti is the defendant in a lawsuit where she was alleged to have worsened injuries suffered by Alexandra Van Horn by “yanking her like a rag doll” from a wrecked vehicle. In other words, because she stopped to help the plaintiff, she is being sued for alleging causing more serious injuries following the auto accident.

In spite of this court ruling, we are not aware of any juries that have ruled against those who, while acting as Good Samaritans, have come to the aide of people who are injured. In other words, all this ruling does is place the personal injury lawsuit before the jury, where a jury can decide whether the defendant has any liability in this case.

Somebody who acts as a Good Samaritan to help others should generally not be sued unless they do not act “in good faith.” In this case, in an emergency situation, Ms. Torti apparently tried to come to the rescue of somebody who appeared to be in dire need of help. Assuming she was doing the best that she could and she was acting in good faith, the fact that she may have caused more severe injuries should not be the cause of greater liability.

Now, I understand the other side of this argument. Certainly, there are some situations where somebody may not act reasonably and may unnecessarily cause greater injuries by trying to do the right thing. It is important that Arizona personal injury lawsuits do not deter caring people from trying to take emergency action to save or help others.

Fortunately, juries usually think this way as well. Even where there is not a law in place to prevent legal liability from potentially being placed against this defendant, experience tells us that it very unlikely that a jury will find liability with the defendant. In fact, maybe in the end that is the lesson from this story. The courts and the legislatures can make laws and can adapt laws and can changes laws, but in the end personal injury victims and personal injury defendants all look to our peers, our neighbors, our co-workers – our “juries” – to use common sense and make reasonable decisions when it comes to awarding damages and money to personal injury victims in the proper amounts and only where appropriate.

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