Good Samaritan Laws

Most people have heard the fable of the “Good Samaritan.” Bandits attack a traveler and leave him bloodied and beaten on the side of the road. A priest and a Levite pass the man but continue on their way without rendering aid. Then a Samaritan, a man with no real reason to help the traveler, decides to go out of his way to help the man, take him to safety, and even secures lodgings and care for the injured traveler at his own expense.

The term “Good Samaritan” today refers to people who take it upon themselves to help others in need, without hope for reward. Many states have recently adopted “Good Samaritan” laws aimed at encouraging similar behavior in our time.

What Are Good Samaritan Laws?

Good Samaritan laws function in different ways across the country. Some aim to reduce the number of deaths caused by the opioid crisis, while others seek to encourage more situational awareness among members of the public. Minnesota’s Good Samaritan law requires citizens to provide “reasonable assistance” to others in harm’s way. The law aims to encourage more people to respond to emergencies instead of simply waiting for the authorities to arrive.

The Good Samaritan law protects individuals who act out of compassion and a genuine desire to help, should they happen to cause injury when rendering aid. Essentially, the Good Samarian law encourages good deeds and helps ensure no one faces punishment for them.

The Minnesota Good Samaritan Law requires citizens to offer assistance to anyone facing grave peril or physical harm from any kind of emergency. An “emergency” in this sense refers to any situation demanding immediate action, but the law does not require citizens to put themselves in harm’s way. The Good Samaritan Law in Minnesota aims at striking a balance between encouraging the public to help others, while protecting those who render aid, but may cause unintentional harm to those they attempt to help.

Criticisms of Minnesota’s Good Samaritan Law

While most Minnesota citizens view the law as helpful, others have encountered difficulties due to the expectations the law sets forth. For example, citizens who suffer injuries in the course of helping others are often stuck paying for their own medical treatment. Some suggest that providing financial assistance to Good Samaritans who suffer injuries while helping others would be a good safety net to include in the law.

Recently, a Minnesota nurse who stopped to help a person injured in a car crash, suffered wounds of her own during the course of events. After receiving medical care, she received a $900 hospital bill for her treatment. Adjusting the law to include financial coverage for Good Samaritans’ injuries seems like a justifiable addition. Citizens who go out of their way to offer help to others not only risk their own well-being, but their financial health as well, if they suffer injuries themselves.

It’s important for residents of Minnesota to realize what the Good Samaritan Law expects of them. It’s also important to recognize that acting in good faith may still sometimes lead to legal entanglements. Anyone who has acted in accordance with Minnesota’s Good Samaritan Law, but still faces legal trouble after acting in good faith, needs to connect with a reliable attorney.