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Rendering Emergency Aid: Massachusetts' Good Samaritan Law

In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, we're bound to hear some stories of heroism -- namely, people who came to the rescue of those in danger or need.

This brings us to the question of Good Samaritan Laws and the implications of helping someone in need.

Is there a duty to help someone in need in Massachusetts? If emergency assistance goes wrong, what are the limitations on liability for helping someone in need?

When talking about Massachusetts and Good Samaritan Laws, we're reminded of the "Seinfeld" finale, which incidentally took place in Massachusetts. If you recall that episode at all, comedian Jerry Seinfeld and friends were sentenced to jail time for witnessing a stickup and robbery that they failed to report.

That's not an accurate depiction of Massachusetts' Good Samaritan law (although there is a duty to report). In fact, the "Seinfeld" scenario was almost the inverse of what Good Samaritan laws are about.

Good Samaritan laws don't punish you for failing to come to someone else's aid. Rather, they protect you when coming to the aid of someone in need.

There are many lawsuits that can arise if someone comes to the aid of a person in danger. So the laws are designed to protect the helper against any lawsuits arising from the Good Samaritan's good deed.

The law reads that any person who renders emergency medical care in good faith and is not a regular medical professional will not be liable for acts or omissions arising from that care.

This, of course, is not including any acts of willful or wanton misconduct, the law states.

So essentially, if you render CPR or assistance to someone in need and things don't go as planned, you can't be held liable for any resulting injuries, unless you were acting in a willful manner to injure the person.

That's a huge difference from what "Seinfeld" told us about the Good Samaritan laws of Massachusetts.

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