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EMS and Good Samaritan Laws

EMS and Good Samaritan Laws

Good Samaritan laws came about to free EMS providers from hesitation and fear over being held liable for actions taken while providing emergency care. In response, many states enacted immunity statutes that protect EMS providers from lawsuits for actions within the scope of their employment; some Good Samaritan laws even provide protection for providers when they are off-duty. These laws vary from state to state, but they generally provide this protection as long as EMS providers: are not grossly negligent; provide emergency care; and act in good faith.

An immunity statute does not actually prevent an individual from filing a lawsuit; rather, it simply makes it more difficult for the plaintiff to recover. It accomplishes this by raising the threshold the plaintiff must meet to prove the elements of negligence in his or her case.  In the absence of an immunity statute (roughly half the states have them in one form or another), the standard legal principles of negligence applies. In other words, the EMS provider would be treated no differently than a passing motorist.

An immunity statute does not change the basic elements of the tort of negligence; instead, it raises the standard required for EMS providers to be found negligent. In other words, it compels the plaintiff to prove that the defendant’s conduct was even more reckless than what would ordinarily be considered negligence. States have defined this heightened category of negligence in a variety of ways, including: gross negligence, gross/intentional conduct, willful/wanton negligence and reckless disregard or misconduct.

It’s important to remember that most immunity laws only apply when the EMS provider is acting within the scope of their employment. Generally, this also means that for the immunity to apply, the emergency care falls within the provider’s scope of training. Since Good Samaritan statutes vary from state to state, it’s advised that any questions or confusion be brought to an experienced attorney for clarification.

Nevada has strong protections in place for EMS providers. N.R.S. 41.500 reads:

“Except as otherwise provided in NRS 41.505, any person in this State who renders emergency care or assistance in an emergency, gratuitously and in good faith, except for a person who is performing community service as a result of disciplinary action pursuant to any provision in title 54 of NRS, is not liable for any civil damages as a result of any act or omission, not amounting to gross negligence, by that person in rendering the emergency care or assistance or as a result of any act or failure to act, not amounting to gross negligence, to provide or arrange for further medical treatment for the injured person.”

NRS 41.505 does not refer to EMS; rather, it pertains to physicians, physician assistants, nurses, and dentists. Basically, minus some act of gross negligence, EMS workers are protected in Nevada for any actions committed in regards to emergency response.