Many of us have an instinct to help those in need, whether donating money to charitable causes or aiding a person injured in an accident. Unfortunately, our intervention can sometimes cause more harm than good, even when our intentions are good.
Imagine, for a moment, that you’re at the scene of an accident and to help an injured person. What happens if the person is injured further due to your intervention?
In Ontario, the Good Samaritan Act, SO 2001, c 2 guides how people who render assistance are treated for legal purposes in certain scenarios. We’ll explore this legislation in further detail below and explain what the provisions of this Act mean for personal injury claimants.
What is the Good Samaritan Act in Ontario?
The Good Samaritan Act, SO 2001, c 2 in Ontario protects individuals who aid an injured person from legal liability in certain situations. It covers a wide range of scenarios, from providing first aid at the scene of an accident to assisting in a medical emergency.
Why does the Good Samaritan Act, SO 2001, c 2 exist? Because, in some cases, even if a person renders aid to another person with good intentions, they could still cause further injury due to negligence. As a result, the injured party may wish to bring legal action against them for any further injury or loss the injured party sustained due to their intervention. For example, a person helping an injured person could neglect to do something that they needed to do, resulting in further injury to the injured person. Or, a person helping an injured person may injure them further by rendering aid.
Essentially, the Good Samaritan Act, SO 2001, c 2 in Ontario encourages people to help others in emergencies. Put another way, the protections offered by the Good Samaritan Act, SO 2001, c 2 alleviate the fear that good samaritans might have about rendering aid and becoming liable for resulting damages or injuries.
When Does the Good Samaritan Act Apply?
It’s important to note that the Good Samaritan Act, SO 2001, c 2 does not apply to every person who aids an injured person. Rather, the person must belong to a prescribed class of people and have acted in a particular manner to avoid liability for damages or injuries.
Who is Covered by the Good Samaritan Act?
The Good Samaritan Act, SO 2001, c 2 applies to two categories of people.
First, it applies to healthcare professionals providing emergency healthcare services or first aid to ill, injured, or unconscious individuals, but only if they provide those services outside a hospital or other appropriate healthcare facility.
Second, it applies to individuals who provide emergency first aid to a person who is ill, injured, or unconscious due to an accident or other emergency at the immediate scene of the accident or emergency.
What Other Conditions Must Exist for the Good Samaritan Act to Apply?
In addition to falling into one of the two categories noted above, “good samaritans” must also meet the following conditions to avoid liability:
- They must act voluntarily; and
- They must act without reasonable expectation of compensation or reward.
The Good Samaritan Act, SO 2001, c 2 further clarifies that any reasonable reimbursement that a person receives for any expenses they incurred in providing aid is not considered compensation or reward for the purposes of the Act.
Can Good Samaritans Still Be Found Liable for Damages?
Keep in mind that, even if a good samaritan meets the requirements above, they can still be found liable for resulting damages or injuries if their actions amount to “gross negligence”, and those actions result in loss or injury to the injured person.
In legal terms, gross negligence refers to a marked departure from the actions that a normal person would have taken in the circumstances and is harder to prove than traditional negligence.
How Ontario’s Good Samaritan Act Can Impact Personal Injury Claims
If a good samaritan was involved in a personal injury claim (namely, rendered aid to one of the parties injured in the accident), it could affect the claim in the following ways:
The Injured Party Will (Likely) Not Be Able to Sue Good Samaritans
Regardless of whether a good samaritan’s action (or inaction) contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries, the plaintiff will (likely) not be successful if they bring a claim against the good samaritan for causing or contributing to any of their accident-related injuries. However, this rule does not preclude the plaintiff from bringing a claim against any other parties who caused or contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries due to their negligence.
Unless the Good Samaritans Committed Gross Negligence
If, however, the plaintiff can establish that the good samaritan’s actions when rendering aid amounted to gross negligence, they may successfully bring a claim against the good samaritan and other negligent actors who caused or contributed to the plaintiff’s injuries and losses.
As the standard for proving gross negligence is much higher than traditional negligence, bear in mind that, in most cases, it is unlikely that a good samaritan would be found grossly negligent and, therefore, partially or fully responsible for the plaintiff’s injuries and losses.
To establish gross negligence, the plaintiff would need to prove that:
- The good samaritan owed the plaintiff a duty of care;
- The good samaritan not only breached their standard of care, but their actions amounted to a marked departure from the applicable standard of care they owed to the plaintiff; and
- The plaintiff suffered injuries or losses as a result of the good samaritan’s actions.
Ontario’s Good Samaritan Act Does Not Prevent Plaintiffs From Bringing Claims Against Other Parties
Perhaps the key takeaway is that Ontario’s Good Samaritan Act, SO 2001, c 2 does not otherwise limit a plaintiff’s ability to bring a claim against other negligent parties whose actions caused the plaintiff’s losses. Rather, by protecting well-intentioned individuals trying to provide aid to a plaintiff in the wake of an accident, the Good Samaritan Act, SO 2001, c 2 encourages bystanders to render aid to injured parties while limiting the plaintiff’s ability to bring a claim against those parties if their interference results in further injury. At the end of the day, plaintiffs are still well within their rights to start an action against those parties who injured them.
Ottawa Personal Injury Lawyers Servicing Eastern Ontario and North Bay
At Tierney Stauffer LLP, we recognize that no two accidents are the same. From identifying the parties responsible for accident injuries, we give each client the personalized help they need to resolve their personal injury claim and move forward.
As a team, we take a cohesive and client-centred approach to each of our personal injury claims. Spread across several convenient locations, we’re always ready to assist our clients, no matter the type of accident or resulting injuries. To discuss your matter with one of our experienced personal injury lawyers, call us at 1-888-799-8057 or contact us online today.