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CA law now allows good samaritans to be sued.

  1. Dec 20, 2008 #1
  2. jcsd
  3. Dec 20, 2008 #2

    Hurkyl

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    Of course CA law allows good samaritans to be sued -- and it should. Lots of bad things can be done with good intentions.

    The relevant question is whether or not this good samaritan did something that merits being sued.
     
  4. Dec 20, 2008 #3
    And lots of bad things can happen when you make people too afraid to help.



    Oh you want me to help you out of that burning car wreckage? Wait hold on, can you sign this waiver for me first?
     
  5. Dec 20, 2008 #4

    russ_watters

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    Hurkyl is absolutely right: people need to be held responsible for their actions. Proper motivation should not absolve someone of responsibility for causing unnecessary harm.
    In this particular case, if the car had been on fire, it may have helped the good samaritan's case.
     
  6. Dec 20, 2008 #5

    Evo

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    Did they prove that the victims injuries are substantially worse because of being rescued? Spinal injuries are so tricky I don't know how thay can say with any certainty which specific injuries were the result of being rescued unless the woman had been medically examined before being moved. Even then, people are medically examined and given a clean bill of health then the person exibits symptoms anyway.
     
  7. Dec 20, 2008 #6

    Danger

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    It's a little different up here. I have friends in Emergency Services who told me something that surprised me. If an off-duty paramedic comes across an accident, s/he isn't allowed to do anything because they could be held responsible for an inadvertent injury. Civilians are immune; any honest attempt to help someone absolves them from responsibility. It's because they aren't expected to know what's best for someone.
     
  8. Dec 20, 2008 #7
    So basically, the samaritan should have waited until the car was on fire to act accordingly. Do you know how ridiculous that sounds?

    If a reasonable person could assume that a car is about to catch fire after an accident then why should they have to wait until the fire actually happens?
     
  9. Dec 20, 2008 #8

    Hurkyl

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    gravenewworld: just so we can be clear on your thought process, would you state whether agree or disagree with the following statement?
    Any person who acts with good intentions should be absolved from the consequences of any damage they cause to a person or to property (or any other crime they may commit)​

    Note: disagreement with the above statement does not mean that you believe this particular good samaritan should be held liable.
     
  10. Dec 20, 2008 #9
    You're supposed to ask "Are you okay? Do you want my help?" first before doing anything.

    Except that this isn't always possible. I saw a girl on a bike get hit by a bus that was trying to pass her (I know, wtf?). The girl fell, but was conscious. I ran up to her and asked her if she is alright, but she just ignored me and started walking to the bus driver (who had stopped after he realized what happened).

    When in shock there is no telling what someone will do. They can just not respond and then later say "I never told you to help me!", or they can agree to your help and then say "I was in shock! I had no idea what I was doing!"

    I know you always watch out for spinal injuries first, so you never move a person unless absolutely necessary. But she didn't know that apparently. So what is "reasonable" care for me isn't "reasonable" care for her.

    The kicker here is that if you just stand by and watch someone die because you are afraid of getting sued you get called a monster, but if you help and get sued you are told to deal with it.
     
  11. Dec 20, 2008 #10
    From gravenewworld's link:
    With smoke and liquid, is this perhaps excused action?

    Edit: On the other hand, this is testimony after the fact.
     
  12. Dec 20, 2008 #11

    mgb_phys

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    Even under the existing law you could be sued if you were a professional.
    I was a diving instructor in CA and we were advised that if there was an accident on a boat/beach where we were present we would be sued - even if the person was not our responsibility. Thats why all diving instructors used to carry beginner PADI cards.

    The CA law only limited your liability if you provided care that a reasonable person might expect - you could still be sued if you did something deliberately stupid. Now you can be sued if you provide other than the legally defined care - so if you are an out of state doctor who saves someones life in a car crash but you don't use CA standard protocol you will be sued.

    This will lead to a loss of life. In the UK the panic against child molesters and the CCTV cameras everywhere means that most adult males will cross the road to avoid a lost or injured child.
     
    Last edited: Dec 20, 2008
  13. Dec 20, 2008 #12
    My wife was a licensed RN in CA. She says that a RN or MD can be sued for NOT stopping to help. But they are only required (allowed!) to help within the limited of their license. They are protected if they act within the limit of their license. This applies to other people also. However, since most of us don't have rescue or medical licenses, most people's responsibility (and scope of action) is limited to calling the proper authorities. Of course if there is a vehicle fire then any reasonable judge will throw a sue case out. However, thinking that it might catch on fire is not good enough to keep you from being sued.
     
  14. Dec 20, 2008 #13

    russ_watters

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    ......not? You're arguing against a known outcome! This isn't hypothetical, it actually happened! The car was not on fire and the victim is paralyzed! We know that moving her was a mistake!
    A reasonable person would assume a car would catch fire? Really? I recognize that people believe what they see in movies, but that doesn't make it any less wrong: cars do not typically catch fire after a crash. It is actually exceedingly rare.

    You're not thinking rationally here. This sounds bad to you, so you consider it bad. Put some thought into it. Try to connect some logic (answer Hurkyl's question). You'll realize it doesn't work.
     
  15. Dec 20, 2008 #14

    russ_watters

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    That's probably pretty important to the ruling in this case. I'm guessing since the other people involved testified they didn't see it, it was decided that the risk was not credible.
     
  16. Dec 20, 2008 #15

    mgb_phys

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    A reasonable person is basically defined as an idiot.
    Ordinary people DO assume that cars immediately burst into flames because that is what is seen on TV. All it needs is for the person to believe that the car is about to explode for it to be justified.

    Remember these are the same reasonable people that ban Wifi from schools and buy bottled water because tap water has chemicals in it.
     
  17. Dec 20, 2008 #16

    russ_watters

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    No. Ordinary and reasonable are not the same thing. Just because ordinary people are idiots, that does not absolve them of the responsibility to be reasonable.
     
  18. Dec 20, 2008 #17

    JasonRox

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    America

    Everyone for themselves.
     
  19. Dec 20, 2008 #18

    mgb_phys

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    http://kotaku.com/5044866/grand-theft-auto-helps-preteen-save-familys-lives
    A girl dragged her parents out of a flipped car because she knew from playing Grand Theft Auto that crashed cars explode. Naturally it didn't but she becomes a hero.

    I can't find any figures but I would bet that a majority of non-specialists believe that a crashed car is likely to explode. If the majority believe that does it become reasonable behaviour?
     
  20. Dec 20, 2008 #19
    Reasonable =/= excusable. You can say it's excusable that she thought it would catch on fire because of TV, but that still doesn't make it reasonable.
     
  21. Dec 20, 2008 #20

    mgb_phys

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    Reasonable in this case has a very specific legal meaning - I was just wondering if the majority of the population believed it to be true does that make the behaviour reasonable?
     
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