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Good Samaritan Laws: What Are They?

The Massachusetts Senate approved amendments to the state's good Samaritan laws that extends legal protections to off-duty police, firefighters, and emergency personnel who intervene in emergencies.

Now the changes await final approval and a signature by Governor Deval Patrick, according to State House News Service.

If the governor approves the amendments, it'll affect the current good Samaritan laws in Massachusetts. But what are Good Samaritan laws?

Current Massachusetts Law

In general, Good Samaritan laws protect individuals who brave an emergency to save lives from being sued -- like those who jumped into action after the Boston Marathon bombing. Most Good Samaritan laws state that a person who finds another individual in imminent and serious danger can't be charged with negligence if injuries occur in attempting to save the injured party.

Massachusetts' law holds true the Good Samaritan concept. It states that no person who provides or attempts to provide assistance for a victim of a crime and does so in good faith, will be liable in a civil lawsuit for damages from any acts that occurred during the rescue. However, if the good Samaritan acted in a totally reckless or outrageous manner, then he or she may be liable for the injuries.

Under another Massachusetts statute, any person whose regular duties don't pertain to emergency care who attempts to render emergency care, like CPR, won't be liable for any injuries that occurred because of that care -- unless it was reckless.

For example, if a waitress sees a customer choking to death and delivers the Heimlich maneuver -- which ends up cracking the customer's rib -- under these Good Samaritan laws, she probably won't be liable for the customer's injury.

Will The Law Change If The Bill Is Signed?

Currently, Massachusetts' good Samaritan laws don't explicitly apply to off-duty emergency personnel. When emergency personnel are on active duty, their life-saving acts are held to a higher standard of care than the average person because they've received specialized training.

If the governor approves the bill, off-duty firefighters, police, and emergency personnel will be able to intervene in emergencies and perform reasonable, life-saving services without facing heightened liability for injuries.

Even if these changes are signed by the governor, consult a personal injury attorney in Boston if you need more help understanding the limits of the good Samaritan laws.

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