Nevada’s “Good Samaritan” Statute

If you witness an accident on a Nevada highway, should you be a “Good Samaritan” and try to help the victim of that accident? You may wonder what legal liabilities could ensue when you make a good faith effort to help someone in a tight situation. Nevada has state laws in place that protect bystanders who voluntarily assist injured individuals at the scene of an accident. However, other types of interventions at the scene of a mishap may not be protected from civil litigation.

Helping in Cases of Injury

Nevada’s “Good Samaritan” laws can be found under statute NRS 41.500, which addresses the liability of persons who render emergency care or gratuitous care. Briefly summarized, this state law provides that any person who administers emergency assistance in good faith without pay to an injured individual is not liable for civil damages so long as such assistance does not constitute gross negligence. In Nevada, gross negligence requires a duty of care coupled with deliberate, reckless misconduct.

When Injuries Have Not Occurred

Nevada’s Good Samaritan statute may not apply to emergency situations where no one has sustained injuries, however. Late one night in 1989, a family of four was driving on a remote stretch of U.S. Highway 95 north of Las Vegas when they got lost. When the driver attempted a U-turn, the car stalled, which blocked the lane of oncoming traffic. A former highway patrol officer stopped to assist. On the former officer’s advice, the driver turned off the stalled car’s headlights in order to preserve its battery. The former officer kept his own truck headlights on to warn other vehicles traveling the road of the stalled car. Despite this, however, the family’s car was struck by a Greyhound bus.

When Assistance Creates the Emergency

A jury subsequently determined that while the former highway patrol officer was responsible for 25 percent of the damages arising from the accident, he was protected by Nevada’s “Good Samaritan” law. The Nevada Supreme Court, however, overturned the “Good Samaritan” protection, arguing that no emergency existed at the time that the former officer stopped to provide assistance. The court also ruled that the emergency that eventually arose was partly due to the former officer’s negligence. If you have questions about negligence and “Good Samaritan” laws, injury attorneys can help to provide you with answers.