Can I be sued for helping in an emergency?

A volunteer can be sued if someone is injured due to his or her negligence, but a person cannot be sued for providing first aid or emergency treatment at the scene of an accident. All 50 states have some type of Good Samaritan Law which will protect a person who helps out in an emergency. An overriding purpose of such statutes are to encourage laypersons and professionals to help out those in need, even when they are under no legal obligation to do so. In New York, there is a Good Samaritan Law that specifically covers laypersons. Thus, a person should not hesitate to help in an emergency for fear of being sued. There are also separate specific Good Samaritan Laws in New York that cover: physicians, physician's assistants, dentists, nurses, and physical therapists. Medical professionals cannot be found liable for negligence or medical malpractice for providing aid in an emergency situation outside of their normal place of business or other facilities which are equipped with proper and necessary medical equipment The section which covers laypersons in New York is Section 3000-a of the Public Health Law. The section sets forth in part that:

...any person who voluntarily and without expectation of monetary compensation renders first aid or emergency treatment at the scene of an accident or other emergency outside a hospital, doctor's office or any other place having proper and necessary medical equipment, to a person who is unconscious, ill, or injured, shall not be liable for damages for injuries alleged to have been sustained by such a person or for damages for the death of such person alleged to have occurred by reason of an act or omission in the rendering of such emergency treatment unless it is established that such injuries were or such death was caused by gross negligence on the part of such person...
To clarify, if you volunteer to deliver food to the elderly home bound you can be sued if you strike someone with your car in route, or if you negligently drop a frozen dinner on some one's foot. The mere fact that you were acting as a volunteer is not going to help you in these situations. However, if in route you stop and help out at a traffic accident and apply a tourniquet, or have to give CPR to the recipient of the food delivery who is having a heart attack, you cannot be held liable for your emergency care, even if such care is not ultimately successful. Should you be sued for your actions as a volunteer, you should immediately let the entity, if any, for which you were volunteering know, as they may provide legal representation and insurance for you. Additionally, your home-owner's policy, or automobile policy, may provide coverage depending on the act you were performing at the time. If in doubt, contact everyone who might possibly provide coverage, as well as an attorney to help you sort through your legal options. Likewise, if you were injured due to someone else's negligence you should seek a consultation with an attorney to explore your legal options. - Marc Miner, Esq. Zalman Schnurman & Miner P.C. is a New York law firm that concentrates in personal injury actions such as stairway accidents, ceiling collapses, construction accidents, motor vehicle accidents, bicycle accidents, premises liability, trip and falls, slip and falls, snow and ice cases, medical malpractice, traumatic brain injuries, etc. Learn more at, or contact us at 1-800-LAWLINE, or 1-800-529-5463 Zalman Schnurman & Miner P.C. handles personal injury actions in New York City, Bronx, Brooklyn, Manhattan, Queens, Staten Island, Nassau County, Suffolk County, Westchester County, and Rockland County. We can often refer you to attorneys in other areas that we have worked with in the past. The information provided here is for informational purposes only and is not meant as legal advice or to cover all possible facts or factors. An attorney should be consulted to discuss specific facts and laws.

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