Your Guide to Nevada’s Good Samaritan Law
What would you do if you saw a pedestrian get hit by an oncoming vehicle? If you are like most people, you would probably do whatever you could to get them the help they need. Imagine you did offer help, only to receive a letter in the mail a few weeks later indicating that you are being sued for “exacerbating” their injuries in your frantic attempt to stabilize the emergency situation.
In Nevada, this should not happen. The reason: Our state has a ‘Good Samaritan’ law on the books that provides considerable liability protection to innocent bystanders who make good faith efforts to offer help in an emergency situation.
Here, our Las Vegas personal injury attorneys have put together a guide that explains the most important things that you need to know about Nevada’s Good Samaritan Laws. We provide an overview of the law, explain its core purpose, and highlight the limitations on liability protection. If you have any specific questions or concerns about your case. please do not hesitate to contact our law office for immediate assistance.
Nevada’s Good Samaritan Law: Understanding the Basics
Nevada public policy seeks to encourage bystanders to offer help in emergency circumstances. State lawmakers do not want people to worry about facing a lawsuit because they might cause some damage while they are voluntarily trying to assist a victim during a chaotic emergency. The purpose of the law is relatively straightforward: a person should not be held liable for an honest mistake made in a truly difficult situation. Under the Nevada Good Samaritan Law (NRS 41.500), any person who makes a good faith effort to help will not be held liable for their actions if:
- There was an actual emergency;
- They made active attempts to offer assistance;
- They were not paid for their efforts; and
- They did not act in a grossly negligent manner.
The Good Samaritan Law Only Applies in Emergency Circumstances
The Nevada Good Samaritan law only offers liability protection to good samaritans who are taking action in an emergency situation. It does not apply to a person who is simply being “helpful” or being “nice”. It does not apply to challenging situations or annoying situations. This distinction is perhaps best demonstrated by the seminal 1989 Supreme Court of Nevada case of Buck By Buck v. Greyhound Lines, Inc.
While returning from a camping trip, a Nevada family was stuck on a desolate stretch of highway north of Las Vegas after their car stalled in the middle of the road. A former Nevada law enforcement officer stopped in order to offer help. Among other things, he told the driver to turn off the car’s headlights — in order to preserve the battery. Tragically, several minutes later, a bus collided with the vehicle while it was still in the road and the passengers were still inside. The four occupants sustained severe injuries.
While an initial court excused the former law enforcement officer from any liability for the accident under Nevada’s Good Samaritan law, the state’s highest court reversed that decision. In the view of the court, there was no emergency when the man arrived and started offering assistance — no one was injured, nor was there any immediate oncoming traffic. He had plenty of time to make a deliberate, measured decision and to help the family push the vehicle off the road before trying to start it again. As such, Nevada’s Good Samaritan Law was inapplicable and did not offer him any liability protection.
Important Exceptions to the Nevada Good Samaritan Law
While Nevada’s Good Samaritan law provides considerable liability protection to people who are making good faith efforts to help in an emergency situation, there are also limits to this statute. Specifically, three key exceptions to our state’s Good Samaritan laws are as follows.
- Gross Negligence/Intentional Harm: If a person caused intentional harm or acts in a grossly negligent manner, they are no longer protected by Nevada’s Good Samaritan law. As explained by the Cornell Legal Information Institute, gross negligence is a lack of care demonstrating a reckless disregard for the health and safety of another party. Gross negligence is far more than an error. It requires unreasonable conduct.
- You Cannot Have Caused the Accident: These laws only apply to innocent bystanders. If you caused an accident, you cannot obtain any sort of liability protection by helping the victim. For example, if a distracted driver causes a major crash, they can be held fully responsible for the victim’s damage, even if they rendered aid after the crash.
- The Law Does Not Apply to Those Who Have a ‘Duty’ to Render Aid: Finally, Nevada’s Good Samaritan law does not apply to any party that has a legal duty to render aid. By definition, these parties are not ‘bystanders’. For example, a staff member at a Las Vegas nursing home has a duty to assist a resident who was injured in a fall accident. The Good Samaritan law would not apply in that situation. Similarly, emergency personnel and medical responders are not covered by the Good Samaritan law. They have a professional duty to offer help.