Nevada’s good Samaritan law shields you from civil liability when (1) you render first aid in good faith to an injured victim, (2) you did not cause the emergency, and (3) you did not act with gross negligence. Nevada law also protects people from certain criminal drug charges if they seek medical help for a person who has overdosed.
In this article, our Las Vegas personal injury attorneys discuss Nevada’s good Samaritan laws:
1. What is Nevada’s good Samaritan law?
The purpose of NRS 41.500 is to encourage innocent bystanders to give emergency assistance without fear of getting sued. Even if the bystander makes an innocent mistake and injures the victim further, Nevada insulates these helpers from civil liability.
In short, NRS 41.500 is an attempt to negate the old adage that “no good deed goes unpunished.”
2. What are the requirements?
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 collapses. This causes Mary to sustain a deep cut. Someone calls 911. Meanwhile, Jed stops the bleeding by binding the wound with his t-shirt. However, Mary develops an infection at the site. She later sues Jed for causing it with his non-sterile t-shirt.
At trial, the jury finds that Jed is protected under NRS 41.500. The situation was an emergency. Mary was injured. And Jed offered medical assistance in good faith and for no charge.
It would make no difference if Jed in the above example was a doctor or other health care professional. As long as Jed’s help was gratuitous and 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 emergency services people:
- Volunteer firefighters;
- Volunteer ambulance drivers and assistants; and
- Search and rescue workers (under a county sheriff’s supervision)1
NRS 41.500 does not protect people from civil liability if they intentionally hurt the victim or are “grossly negligent” when rendering aid to a victim. Gross negligence is not a mere lapse of judgment like simple negligence. Instead, it is reckless or deliberate misconduct.
Example: Jake sees a bike ram into a pedestrian. The pedestrian falls down on the road bruised. Jake wants to get the pedestrian out of traffic. But he does not carefully carry the pedestrian away. Instead, Jake grabs the pedestrian by the legs and swings him onto the sidewalk. This causes the pedestrian to sustain a broken leg.
If the pedestrian sues Jake, the Good Samaritan law will not protect him. Jake’s act of handling the pedestrian like a rag doll is gross negligence. Therefore, Jake can be sued by the injured person for exacerbating his injuries.
NRS 41.500 also does not immunize people who caused the victim’s initial injury. If the bicyclist in the above example carefully carried Jake away from traffic, the bicyclist could still be sued. 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 and provide reasonable care include:
- Paid first responders, such as paramedics;
- Innkeepers helping an injured guest on their property;
- Daycare workers helping an injured child in their care; and
- Drivers who hit a pedestrian
Furthermore, people with a duty to render aid are held to a higher standard than regular bystanders. Good Samaritans may not be liable for their innocent mistakes (simple negligence). But 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 liability if:
- The person successfully completed a course in CPR. The course must meet 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. The course must be 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 the person giving CPR could face civil liability if he/she acted with 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 has a law – NRS 453C -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:
- Drug paraphernalia possession (NRS 453.560 & NRS 453.566);
- Violation of a restraining order (NRS 33.100);
- Violation of probation;
- Violation of parole; or
- Drug possession (NRS 453.336), with some exceptions
The purpose of Nevada’s good Samaritan drug overdose law is to save lives, especially during the present opioid overdose epidemic. People are much more likely to seek help for an overdosing person if they do not fear getting arrested by law enforcement for it. Letting these good Samaritans off the hook for their drug-related transgressions is worth the opportunity to treat people suffering from an overdose.
Note that NRS 453C’s immunity protections also extend to medical professionals with the authority to write prescriptions who prescribe antidotes for opioid overdoses. The pharmacists who dispense these antidotes are immune from legal liability as well.4
People can be liable for injuries they cause rendering aid if they do not check all the required boxes. Plaintiffs in a personal injury case may be able to show that the defendant was not immune from civil liability on either of the following grounds:
- The defendant expected payment;
- The defendant did not render aid or medical care 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 or intentional harm
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 used his own headlights to illuminate the stalled car. Despite this, a Greyhound bus did not see the stalled car and plowed into it.
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, which made him invisible to oncoming traffic. Therefore, the officer was not exempt under NRS 41.500 and had legal liability.
If a plaintiff wins a civil trial against a false good Samaritan, the plaintiff may be eligible to receive compensatory civil damages. This includes money for:
And if the defendant acted with gross negligence, the judge may order that he/she pay punitive damages as well.5
No. Even if bystanders feel a moral duty to render aid in an emergency, they have no legal duty to.
The statute of limitations in accident cases can be as short as two (2) years, so contact our injury lawyers right away to start working on your 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. Sam Gross, “Good Samaritans lift SUV, rescue pinned motorcyclist,” Reno-Gazette Journal via USA Today (July 31, 2019)
- NRS 41.500.
- NRS 453C.150; NRS 453C.110 – 120.
- Buck v. Greyhound Lines, Inc., (1989) 105 Nev. 756, 783, 783 P.2d 437, 441.