People may not always know how to react in an emergency, but New Jersey Good Samaritan laws encourage bystanders to help those in urgent need. These laws provide legal protections for those who offer medical assistance or call 911.
New Jersey has two Good Samaritan laws. The first law protects bystanders who voluntarily give first aid or medical assistance from civil liability. This law prevents a person from being sued for making a mistake while providing emergency care for an injured person. However, there are exceptions, such as when aid isn’t offered in good faith.
The second law protects people from arrest and criminal prosecution related to reporting a possible drug overdose. In some cases, this law stops police and prosecutors from using evidence obtained as a result of someone calling for medical help.
If bystander assistance injured you, or if you’re concerned about criminal charges after reporting a drug overdose, the attorneys at Villani & DeLuca can help. With experience in personal injury and criminal law, the lawyers at Villani & DeLuca understand New Jersey’s good Samaritan laws and can provide the advice you need.
Protection from Civil Liability for Emergency Aid
People who witness a car wreck, serious fall, or other emergencies may be wary of providing aid due to fear of being sued if they make a mistake or the victim doesn’t recover. The New Jersey Good Samaritan statute allows bystanders at the scene of an accident to assist someone in need without fear of civil liability.
Attempts to assist emergency victims before professional help arrives don’t always go as planned, and assistance from individuals who are panicked or have little medical training can sometimes cause more harm than good. However, the Good Samaritan law recognizes that most of the time, it’s desirable to encourage bystanders to assist those in need of emergency aid.
The Good Samaritan law, New Jersey Legislative Statutes §2A:62A-1, generally protects the following persons from civil liability if they render aid at an accident scene:
- Persons with no medical training
- Doctors, nurses, and other medical professionals who happen to be off-duty bystanders during an emergency
- Volunteer first aid or emergency associations
- Volunteer ambulance or rescue squads
Good Samaritan protection only applies to volunteers. It doesn’t, for example, protect doctors and paramedics who are being paid for their services in a hospital emergency room. These protections also only apply to people who provide emergency care in “good faith.”
What If A Good Samaritan Injures You?
New Jersey’s Good Samaritan law can encourage people to provide first aid, CPR, or other assistance in an emergency, and this is usually a good thing. However, these laws can be frustrating if the actions of a so-called Good Samaritan have left you with more severe injuries. If a bystander’s aid hurt you, you may wish to speak with an NJ personal injury lawyer. There are some exceptions to NJ’s Good Samaritan law, which may allow you to seek compensation for your injuries.
N.J.L.S. §2A:62A-1 protects bystanders from being sued for “acts or omissions” made when rendering emergency care. Generally, a bystander who has made a genuine, good-faith effort to provide help can’t be sued. However, the law doesn’t protect acts that are noticeably negligent, reckless, or intentional. If you were injured by carelessly administered aid, talk to the knowledgeable personal injury lawyers at Villani & DeLuca about whether you can take legal action.
The Overdose Prevention Act
New Jersey’s other Good Samaritan law, N.J.L.S. §2C:35-30, is known as The Overdose Prevention Act. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, drug overdoses are a leading cause of injury-related death in the United States. In 2017, more than 70,000 people in the United States died from drug overdoses. The majority of those deaths involved prescription drugs or illegal opioids.
Frequently other drug users, or people in possession of controlled substances, are the only ones present when someone overdoses. Even a person who doesn’t use drugs could be charged with drug possession or other crimes due to drugs found in a car or home. These people may fear criminal consequences for their behavior if they call 911 for help.
The Overdose Prevention Act was signed into law in 2013 to encourage people to call 911 immediately to stop fatal overdoses without fear of criminal consequences. The law provides some immunity from criminal prosecution for people who report or seek aid for a person suspected of overdosing on illegal or prescription drugs.
In an effort to reduce deaths from drug overdoses in New Jersey, the NJ Department of Human Services’ Division of Mental Health and Addiction Services launched a campaign to spread awareness about the law. The public awareness message used the motto, “Save a life. Don’t think twice, just call 911.”
Immunity From Criminal Prosecution After Reporting an Overdose
The Overdose Prevention Act states that a person who seeks medical help for someone experiencing a drug overdose may not be arrested, charged, prosecuted, or convicted for:
- Possessing or being under the influence of an illegal drug or controlled substance
- Acquiring or obtaining a controlled substance
- Unlawfully possessing a prescription drug
- Possessing drug paraphernalia, hypodermic syringes, or needles
Additionally, law enforcement can’t revoke a reporting party’s parole or probation due to any of the above crimes.
However, there are some limitations to the immunity offered by this law. First, the person must have been seeking medical help for an overdosing party. Immunity may not be available simply because another person overdosed. For example, if the overdose was discovered by police or reported by a neighbor, those in possession of controlled substances can’t claim protection under this Good Samaritan law.
The second limitation is that immunity only applies to cases where police obtain the evidence for the arrest, prosecution, or conviction as a result of the call for medical help. Under N.J.L.S. §2C:35-30(c), law enforcement may investigate and prosecute someone for other drug crimes. Police can’t use needles or drugs found when responding to an overdose call, but the Good Samaritan law doesn’t protect someone from being arrested or prosecuted for unrelated past or future drug offenses.
Criminal Charges Due to Calling 911
If police charge you with a drug crime that you believe should be covered by Good Samaritan immunity, call a criminal defense lawyer right away. An attorney can review your case and provide advice on whether the Good Samaritan provisions of The Overdose Prevention Act apply to you. Whether or not this immunity protects you, the NJ criminal defense lawyers at Villani & DeLuca can work to protect your rights.
Get Help With Good Samaritan Legal Issues by Calling Villani & DeLuca Today
Good Samaritan laws exist to encourage people to assist one another during emergencies. Unfortunately, these laws don’t always help you as intended. Attorneys at Villani & DeLuca are experienced with New Jersey’s Good Samaritan laws and are ready to advise you concerning your legal problem.
Contact experienced personal injury lawyers if the careless actions of a bystander injured you during an emergency. You may be legally eligible to sue for financial compensation.
Additionally, if you find yourself facing criminal charges after seeking medical assistance for a drug overdose, contact skilled New Jersey drug attorneys. Call Villani & DeLuca today to find out what options are available to you.