Good samaritans are defined as individuals who render aid and assistance to individuals in the midst of emergency situations. Illinois law provides protections for individuals who offer this assistance, however, there are exceptions to the rule and not every action is protected under the law.
Emergency Room Physicians
The Illinois Supreme Court has ruled that emergency physicians can be held liable for negligence if they are paid for their services by either the hospital or the patient. The law only shields volunteer physicians, nurses, and other licensed medical personnel only if they do not bill or receive payment of any kind for the services they provide to an injured person.
Physicians can also be held liable if they initiate inappropriate actions while rendering emergency aid at the site of an accident or catastrophe. For example, a physician who reads an injured person’s medical alert bracelet indicating an allergy to aspirin prior to administering a dose of aspirin. Such blatant disregard for the person’s safety would disqualify them from protection under the Illinois Good Samaritan Act.
Willful or Wanton Misconduct
Willful and wanton misconduct on the part of volunteer medical personnel or private citizen rendering aid disqualifies the individual for protection under the Illinois Good Samaritan Act. For example, if a volunteer surgeon conducts a wrong-site surgery or if a volunteer nurse deliberately fails to properly clean a wound that then becomes infected.
Another example of willful or wanton misconduct includes individuals who come across accidents and whose actions cause further injuries or the death of the victim. For example, if a passerby responding to an accident was smoking a cigarette even as the smell of spilled fuel permeated the air. Should that cigarette ignite the fuel and the ensuing fire burn the injured party, the “volunteer” could be held liable for their negligence.
Write Off’s & Unpaid Bills
A physician cannot utilize the good samaritan defense even if the patient has failed to pay their medical bill. The fact that the physician’s office sent the bill in the first place shows that their services were contracted and not volunteered. The same is true if the physician offers the patient a discount for services, or if the physician’s office writes the medical bills off as uncollectible.
Individuals injured by “good samaritans” should speak with the best personal injury attorney to discuss the merits of their claim. The law allows injured parties to pursue compensation stemming from actions that did far more harm than good.