Under NRS 41.500, good Samaritans in Nevada are protected from being sued for any injuries they inadvertently cause as long as:
- There was an emergency situation not of the good Samaritan's making; and
- The good Samaritan was acting in good faith and for free; and
- The victim was already injured; and
- Nothing the good Samaritan did to help qualifies as "gross negligence"
Nevada law also protects people from being arrested for certain drug offenses if they seek medical help for a person who has overdosed.
Meanwhile, anyone who does not meet all the requirements to be a good Samaritan may be civilly liable to the victim for exacerbating his/her injuries. Depending on the case, defendants in these cases may be required to pay such damages as:
- medical bills in Nevada,
- lost wages in Nevada,
- lost earning capacity in Nevada, and/or
- pain and suffering in Nevada
In this article, our Las Vegas personal injury attorneys discuss Nevada's good Samaritan laws:
- 1. Nevada's Good Samaritan law
- 2. Requirements
- 3. Disqualifications
- 4. Rendering CPR
- 5. Rendering aid after an overdose
- 6. Suing a good Samaritan
The purpose of NRS 41.500 is to encourage bystanders to help injured people in an emergency without fear of getting sued. Even if the bystander makes an innocent mistake while rendering aid and injures the victim further, Nevada insulates these "good Samaritans" from civil liability.
In short, NRS 41.500 is an attempt to negate the old adage that "no good deed goes unpunished."
NRS 41.500 applies to a narrow range of situations. In order to be protected as a "good Samaritan" under Nevada law, the following four conditions must be met:
- the situation must be an emergency;
- the person rendering emergency care or assistance must be working for free;
- the person rendering emergency care or assistance must be working in good faith; and
- the victim receiving aid must be injured
Example: Jed is at a backyard barbecue when the deck suddenly collapses, causing Mary to sustain a deep cut. While someone calls 911, Jed stops the bleeding by binding the wound with his t-shirt. However, Mary develops an infection at the site and sues Jed for causing it with his non-sterile t-shirt.
If the case goes to court, the jury would probably find that Jed is protected under NRS 41.500. The situation was an emergency, Mary was injured, and Jed rendered aid in good faith and for no charge.
Note that it would make no difference if Jed in the above example was a doctor or other medical professional. As long as he was not expecting payment, Mary would not have a viable claim against him.
Note that NRS 41.500 protects not only innocent bystanders but also the following people:
- volunteer firefighters
- volunteer ambulance drivers and assistants
- search and rescue workers (under a county sheriff's supervision)1
NRS 41.500 does not protect people from civil liability if they are "grossly negligent" when rendering aid to a victim. Gross negligence is not a mere lapse of judgment like simple negligence in Nevada; instead, it is reckless or deliberate misconduct.
Example: Jake is walking down the street when he sees a bike ram into a pedestrian, who falls down on the road bloody and bruised. Jake wants to get the pedestrian out of traffic. But instead of carefully carrying the pedestrian away, Jake grabs the pedestrian by the legs and swings him onto the sidewalk. This causes the pedestrian to sustain a broken leg as well.
If the pedestrian sues Jake, NRS 41.500 will not protect him. Jake's act of handling the pedestrian like a rag doll constitutes gross negligence. Therefore, Jake was not acting as a good Samaritan.
NRS 41.500 also does not protect people from civil liability if they caused the victim's injury to begin with. If the bicyclist in the above example carefully carried Jake away from traffic, the bicyclist could still be sued because he was the one who ran into and injured the pedestrian.
Finally, NRS 41.500 does not protect people from liability who have a duty to give aid in the first place. A good Samaritan is someone who renders aid even though he/she has no legal duty to do so. Examples of people with a duty to render aid include:
- paid first-responders
- innkeepers helping an injured guest on their property
- daycare workers helping an injured child in their care
- drivers who hit a pedestrian
Furthermore, people with a duty to render aid are held to a higher standard than good Samaritans. Whereas good Samaritans may not be civilly liable for their innocent mistakes (simple negligence), people with a duty to render aid are liable for their mistakes.2
People who administer CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation) in good faith and outside the scope of their job are protected from civil liability if either of the following conditions is true:
- the person successfully completed a course in CPR to the guidelines of the American National Red Cross or American Heart Association; or
- the person successfully completed the training requirements of a course in basic emergency care of a person in cardiac arrest conducted in accordance with the standards of the American Heart Association; or
- the person is directed to give CPR by the instructions of a dispatcher for an ambulance, air ambulance, or other agency that provides emergency medical services, before its arrival at the scene of the emergency,
But at discussed in the previous section, the person giving CPR could still face civil liability if any of his/her actions constitute gross negligence.3
In the past, people who OD-ed or saw others OD were afraid to seek medical treatment out of fear that they would get arrested. As of 2015, Nevada now has a law protecting people from certain criminal prosecution whenever they either:
- report an overdose (or other medical emergency) to the police, 911, a poison control center, or medical facility; or
- assist another person in reporting an overdose; or
- care for a person who is OD-ing or having other medical emergency while waiting for medical help; or
- bring a person experiencing an overdose or emergency to a medical facility and notify the appropriate authorities.
People who do either of the above four acts may not be arrested or prosecuted for:
- the Nevada crime of drug paraphernalia possession (NRS 453.560 & NRS 453.566);
- a violation of a restraining order in Nevada (NRS 33.100);
- a violation of probation in Nevada;
- a violation of parole in Nevada; or
- the Nevada crime of drug possession (NRS 453.336) with some exceptions
The purpose of Nevada's good Samaritan drug overdose law is to save lives. People are much more likely to seek help for an overdosing person if they do not fear getting arrested for it. Letting these good Samaritans off the hook for their drug-related transgressions is a small price to pay for the opportunity to treat people suffering from an overdose.4
As discussed above, people can be civilly liable for any injuries they cause rendering aid if they do not check all the good Samaritan boxes. Plaintiffs in a personal injury case may be able to show that the defendant was not good Samaritan on either of the following grounds:
- the defendant expected payment,
- the defendant did not render aid in good faith,
- the situation was not an emergency,
- the plaintiff was not injured,
- the defendant had a duty to give aid,
- the defendant created the emergency or caused the plaintiff's injury, or
- the defendant's actions amounted to gross negligence
The most notable Nevada Supreme Court case involving a lawsuit against a self-proclaimed good Samaritan is Buck v. Greyhound Lines:
After a car stalled in the street, a retired police officer advised the driver to turn off his headlights to conserve battery and instead uses his own headlights to illuminate the stalled car. Despite this, a Greyhound bus rammed into the stalled car.
The trial court found that the retired officer was 25% responsible for the accident but declined to hold him liable since he was a good Samaritan. But the Nevada Supreme Court overturned this verdict: It argued that no emergency situation existed until the officer created it himself by telling the driver to turn off his headlights, rendering him invisible to oncoming traffic. Therefore, the officer was not protected under NRS 41.500 as a Good Samaritan.
If a plaintiff wins a civil trial against a false good Samaritan, the plaintiff may be eligible to receive Nevada compensatory damages. This includes money for:
- medical bills
- lost wages
- loss of future earnings
- pain and suffering
And if the defendant acted with gross negligence, the judge may order that he/she pay punitive damages in Nevada as well.5
Call a Nevada personal injury attorney...
Were your injuries aggravated by a self-proclaimed good Samaritan in Nevada? Call our Las Vegas personal injury attorneys at 702-333-3673 for a FREE consultation. We may be able to win you a large settlement to cover all your costs plus more. And we take none of your money unless we win the case.
In California? Learn about California's Good Samaritan laws - Health and Safety Code 1799.102.
- NRS 41.500 General rule; volunteers; members of search and rescue organization; persons rendering cardiopulmonary resuscitation or using defibrillator; presumptions relating to emergency care rendered on public school grounds or in connection with public school activities; business or organization that has defibrillator for use on premises.
1. Except as otherwise provided in NRS 41.505, any person in this State who renders emergency care or assistance in an emergency, gratuitously and in good faith, except for a person who is performing community service as a result of disciplinary action pursuant to any provision in title 54 of NRS, is not liable for any civil damages as a result of any act or omission, not amounting to gross negligence, by that person in rendering the emergency care or assistance or as a result of any act or failure to act, not amounting to gross negligence, to provide or arrange for further medical treatment for the injured person.
2. Any person in this State who acts as a driver of an ambulance or attendant on an ambulance operated by a volunteer service or as a volunteer driver or attendant on an ambulance operated by a political subdivision of this State, or owned by the Federal Government and operated by a contractor of the Federal Government, and who in good faith renders emergency care or assistance to any injured or ill person, whether at the scene of an emergency or while transporting an injured or ill person to or from any clinic, doctor's office or other medical facility, is not liable for any civil damages as a result of any act or omission, not amounting to gross negligence, by that person in rendering the emergency care or assistance, or as a result of any act or failure to act, not amounting to gross negligence, to provide or arrange for further medical treatment for the injured or ill person.
3. Any person who is an appointed member of a volunteer service operating an ambulance or an appointed volunteer serving on an ambulance operated by a political subdivision of this State, other than a driver or attendant of an ambulance, is not liable for any civil damages as a result of any act or omission, not amounting to gross negligence, by that person whenever the person is performing his or her duties in good faith.
4. Any person who is a member of a search and rescue organization in this State under the direct supervision of any county sheriff who in good faith renders care or assistance in an emergency to any injured or ill person, whether at the scene of an emergency or while transporting an injured or ill person to or from any clinic, doctor's office or other medical facility, is not liable for any civil damages as a result of any act or omission, not amounting to gross negligence, by that person in rendering the emergency care or assistance, or as a result of any act or failure to act, not amounting to gross negligence, to provide or arrange for further medical treatment for the injured or ill person.
5. Any person who is employed by or serves as a volunteer for a public fire-fighting agency and who is authorized pursuant to chapter 450B of NRS to render emergency medical care at the scene of an emergency is not liable for any civil damages as a result of any act or omission, not amounting to gross negligence, by that person in rendering that care or as a result of any act or failure to act, not amounting to gross negligence, to provide or arrange for further medical treatment for the injured or ill person.
6. Any person who:
(a) Has successfully completed a course in cardiopulmonary resuscitation according to the guidelines of the American National Red Cross or American Heart Association;
(b) Has successfully completed the training requirements of a course in basic emergency care of a person in cardiac arrest conducted in accordance with the standards of the American Heart Association; or
(c) Is directed by the instructions of a dispatcher for an ambulance, air ambulance or other agency that provides emergency medical services before its arrival at the scene of the emergency,
--> and who in good faith renders cardiopulmonary resuscitation in accordance with the person's training or the direction, other than in the course of the person's regular employment or profession, is not liable for any civil damages as a result of any act or omission, not amounting to gross negligence, by that person in rendering that care.
7. For the purposes of subsection 6, a person who:
(a) Is required to be certified in the administration of cardiopulmonary resuscitation pursuant to NRS 391.092; and
(b) In good faith renders cardiopulmonary resuscitation on the property of a public school or in connection with a transportation of pupils to or from a public school or while on activities that are part of the program of a public school,
--> shall be presumed to have acted other than in the course of the person's regular employment or profession.
8. Any person who gratuitously and in good faith renders emergency medical care involving the use of an automated external defibrillator is not liable for any civil damages as a result of any act or omission, not amounting to gross negligence, by that person in rendering that care.
9. A business or organization that has placed an automated external defibrillator for use on its premises is not liable for any civil damages as a result of any act or omission, not amounting to gross negligence, by the person rendering such care or for providing the automated external defibrillator to the person for the purpose of rendering such care if the business or organization:
(a) Complies with all current federal and state regulations governing the use and placement of an automated external defibrillator;
(b) Ensures that the automated external defibrillator is maintained and tested according to the operational guidelines established by the manufacturer; and
(c) Establishes requirements for the notification of emergency medical assistance and guidelines for the maintenance of the equipment.
10. As used in this section, “gratuitously” means that the person receiving care or assistance is not required or expected to pay any compensation or other remuneration for receiving the care or assistance.
Sam Gross, "Good Samaritans lift SUV, rescue pinned motorcyclist," Reno-Gazette Journal via USA Today (July 31, 2019)
- NRS 41.500.
- NRS 453C.150.
Buck v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., 105 Nev. 756, 762, 783 P.2d 437, 441 (1989)("[B]oth the history and the language of the statute, NRS 41.500(1), make clear its intended purpose to insulate from liability for ordinary negligence persons who render emergency care or assistance in an emergency to injured persons. Three key prerequisites to the protection of the statute are: (1) rendering emergency care or assistance, (2) in an emergency (3) to injured persons. The statute thus encourages passersby to involve themselves in emergencies where injured persons are in need of emergency care or assistance. In insulating such "Good Samaritans" from liability for damages or injuries resulting from their ordinary negligence, the statute recognizes that in emergency situations there are factors operating that militate against calm, orderly reasoning that persons of ordinary care and intelligence would normally exercise under emergency-free circumstances. NRS 41.500(1) identifies only one category of recipient of emergency care or assistance -- the injured person.").