The Florida Good Samaritan Law
Many states have some version of a duty to rescue law, sometimes called a “Good Samaritan” law in reference to a New Testament parable about the importance of helping strangers. These laws vary widely in the requirements and protections they spell out. Some require all citizens to make a reasonable effort to help others in danger, while others only protect people who do so.
Florida’s own Good Samaritan Act is closer to the latter category. Its intended purpose is to increase the likelihood that a person in distress will receive the medical treatment they need, whether it comes from a professional or nearby layperson. The law is based on the idea that people might avoid offering help for fear of being sued if the situation does not turn out well.
It is debatable whether a significant amount of people have actually refused to render aid due to a fear of civil action. However, in case this does occur, the act clearly states that a person acting in good faith to help someone in an emergency cannot face civil penalties. In law, “good faith” means making a genuine effort to do something that can reasonably be expected to help.
This law only applies in emergency situations that require immediate treatment. If a patient is stable enough to wait for less rushed treatment, or denies the treatment offered, the person helping them may still be open to civil penalties. The law also does not protect medical workers who choose to ignore a medical emergency, or respond to an emergency in a way that they should have known would not help.