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Michigan’s “Good Samaritan” Laws Are Written to Protect Well-Intentioned Bystanders… but How Much Safety Do They Offer

Michigan’s “Good Samaritan” Laws Are Written to Protect Well-Intentioned Bystanders… but How Much Safety Do They Offer


You’re probably familiar with the biblical Golden Rule – “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Similarly, the Buddhist/Hindu concept of karma essentially states that your own good (or bad) actions will ultimately be repaid in kind. Or perhaps you’ve heard of the idea of “paying it forward” – which happens when you provide someone with a generous but totally unexpected surprise in response to an unselfish act you’ve previously received from another individual.

All these philosophical guideposts for benevolent human interaction have come into play in some important legislation we know today as “Good Samaritan” Laws. These valuable laws were so named because they seek to encourage people to emulate the actions of a parable involving an uninvolved passerby (a Samaritan) who stopped to help an injured man with no thought at all for his own welfare.

These days, countless latter-day “Good Samaritans” continue to honor the philosophy whenever they stop to help someone change a flat tire, assist an unhoused person in finding a meal or a warm bed, render first aid to injured people at the scene of a car accident, help a victim of a drug overdose, even provide cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or use an automated external defibrillator (AED) to save the life of someone suffering from a heart attack.

But, sadly, sometimes these kind-hearted “Good Samaritans” have been subjected to the pain of legal action – or have even been arrested – when their attempts to help others are rebuffed or misinterpreted by law enforcement authorities. (Fortunately in one such incident, the retired fire chief who was taken into police custody when he stopped to save an injured woman who wasn’t breathing after a Georgia car accident was later released and no charges were filed against him.)

Here in Michigan, to encourage acts of human kindness, and to help save the lives of countless injured people, state legislators have taken several steps to legally protect individuals who selflessly assist others in their time of need. Let’s take a few minutes to describe the Great Lake State’s “Good Samaritan” laws currently in place, and to offer our thoughts on how they might be improved.


Who Do Michigan’s “Good Samaritan” Laws Protect?

Going back several decades, “Good Samaritan” laws in Michigan offer legal protection for medical professionals and (sometimes) other individuals who come to the aid of people in need of immediate first aid, treatment for opioid overdoses, or other emergency assistance. In 1986, earlier versions of the state’s “Good Samaritan” law of 1963 were amended to prevent people from being sued when providing CPR to assist heart attack victims. Then, in 1999, protection was added for anyone using an AED to provide emergency cardiac care. More recently, the state’s “Good Samaritan” law was further updated to legally safeguard individuals who come to the aid of people experiencing opioid overdoses, even if they are drug users themselves.


Are There Exceptions to Michigan’s “Good Samaritan” Laws?

Yes. First, you should know that in Michigan there are no specific legal requirements for anyone either to offer aid, or to withhold aiding, when they encounter an emergency medical situation. If you choose to help someone who’s hurt, you’re doing so without specific legal protection except in the circumstances we’ve listed above. To be clear, the laws as written today specifically safeguard lay (non-medically trained) people who provide CPR or use AEDs, or those who administer Narcan to opioid overdose victims. However, it’s highly unlikely you’d be sued for providing other kinds of assistance, unless you engage in “willful and wanton misconduct” such as disregard for the safety of others, or act with “gross negligence” when offering aid.

For instance, if you’re first on the scene of a car accident and help prevent someone from bleeding out by fastening a tourniquet, you are acting as any compassionate and prudent individual would in that kind of situation. In such a case, you’d most likely never be sued for helping save the victim’s life. On the other hand, if you do anything that exacerbates an injury, or causes subsequent harm to an accident victim, you’d possibly be subject to legal action. So, administering common-sense first aid, offering comfort to injured people, and helping in the best way you know how, are all actions that should be taken without fear of legal repercussions.


How to Improve the State’s “Good Samaritan” Laws

As you’ve just read, no one is required to offer first aid in Michigan. It’s a highly personal decision that the state leaves up to individuals to make for themselves. But if someone does choose to unselfishly assist their fellow human beings who’ve been injured, we believe state law should be more direct in shielding all such “Good Samaritans” – not just licensed medical personnel – from legal actions resulting from their altruistic actions. If you agree with that point of view, we urge you to contact your state representative or get in touch with your state senator to make your feelings known.


How to Protect Yourself Whenever It’s Needed

If all else fails, know that our legal team will be happy to offer advice if you ever find yourself in a situation where you’re being sued for helping someone who was hurt in a car accident, a work-related incident, or some other circumstance where you’ve offered first aid. If we can’t help you ourselves, we can certainly provide you with a professional referral to legal specialists who deal with your specific type of situation. Of course, if you’ve been injured through no fault of your own, on the roadon the job, in a slip-and-fall accident, or even if you’ve been attacked by a neighbor’s vicious guard dog, we’ll also be right at your side – and on your side – as soon as you contact us at 855-MIKE-WINS (855-645-3946). Consider us your personal “Good Samaritans” and don’t hesitate to call us even for a moment!


Michigan’s “Good Samaritan” Laws Are Written to Protect Well-Intentioned Bystanders… but How Much Safety Do They Offer

Content checked by Mike Morse, personal injury attorney with Mike Morse Injury Law Firm. Mike Morse is the founder of Mike Morse Law Firm, the largest personal injury law firm in Michigan. Since being founded in 1995, Mike Morse Law Firm has grown to 150 employees, served 25,000 clients, and collected more than $1 billion for victims of auto, truck and motorcycle accidents. The main office is in Southfield, MI but you can also find us in Detroit, Sterling Heights and many other locations.