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Updates in Good Samaritan Laws in Florida

In our society, contrary to popular belief, there are only a limited number of circumstances where people have an obligation to help others that are in dangerous situations. The obligation to help others only is provided where there is a special, legally-defined relationship between the one needing help and the one providing help. The rule of thumb when it comes to one’s duty to help another is that usually, there is no duty. This is because there is no requirement by the law that (without a specific relationship) someone should be prosecuted for not putting their life in danger to help another person. In most states, there is only a duty to rescue or help where:

  • The helper is the one that created the dangerous circumstances in the first place;
  • There is a special relationship between you and the person needing help, such as teacher and student, parent and child; or
  • The helper began providing aid to the person in need, and as a result, others who might have offered help have retreated and allowed you to perform the rescue, among other circumstances.

Good Samaritan Act in Florida

There are, however, certain civil and criminal protections for those who provide help to another. These are known as Good Samaritan laws and they ensure that someone who voluntarily helps another is not liable for any resulting circumstance that occurs from the help given.

Florida has a Good Samaritan Act, which provides immunity from civil liability for those who offer emergency care and treatment during an emergency situation. The state wants to encourage emergency care to be provided without a fear of litigation or other types of damages. Good Samaritan laws, however, do have their exceptions where someone may face criminal or civil liability as a result of helping. Florida, however, has passed recent legislation to broaden coverage for actions of good Samaritans interested in helping out.

Good Samaritan Law: Drug Overdose Immunity

First, there has been a significant push to include drug overdose immunity as part of the Good Samaritan laws. This legislation offers protection to those who require medical attention for a controlled drug overdose, with the hopes that removing liability would incentivize people involved in the drug overdose to overcome their fear of punishment and save the overdosing individual. The state asserts that without the broadened protection to those individuals, overdosing will be a more common occurrence because of people’s fears of being in trouble with the law for illegal drugs.

The PAWS Act: Immunity for Rescuing Dogs from Hot Cars

Florida is in the process of putting forward another Good Samaritan law known as the Protecting Animal Welfare and Safety Act (or PAWS Act), which would allow a good Samaritan to be free of liability for breaking the window of a hot car where a dog is suffering inside. The Good Samaritan would be required to use “reasonable force” to rescue the dog but would also be required, before breaking into the car, to make reasonable efforts to find the owner. Also, the Good Samaritan must contact a law enforcement officer or a 9-1-1 dispatcher to receive permission to save the dog. Not only would the Good Samaritan receive full immunity from civil or criminal liability (if he or she followed the requirements under the law) but more likely than not, the dog owner might face criminal charges.

Experienced Criminal Defense Attorney in Fort Lauderdale

Good Samaritan laws are important for a society that encourages helping those around you in need. Good Samaritans should not be punished for attempting to help, but sometimes the law does not provide enough coverage. If you or a loved one has been involved in an incident where criminal charges are being brought and Good Samaritan laws are not enough protection, an experienced criminal defense attorney like Kevin J. Kulik can help. Contact Kevin J. Kulik today for a free and confidential consultation in the Fort Lauderdale area.

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