Does Colorado Have a Good Samaritan Law
Good Samaritan Laws are a means of protecting citizens who offer emergency first aid from being prosecuted for worsened or new injuries. All 50 states have a basic Good Samaritan law. A majority of states, including Colorado, have also extended their good samaritan laws to offer immunity to individuals who dial 911 to report a drug overdose. Let’s take a look at some examples of when the Colorado good samaritan law might protect an individual, as well as exceptions to the law and how it might affect a personal injury case.
What Does the Good Samaritan Law Say?
In general, the Good Samaritan Law says that an individual who was acting in good faith to provide life-saving care cannot be held liable for injuries caused. In the past, there have been cases when an unconscious person has chosen to sue a civilian for causing new injuries or worsening existing ones when performing first aid.
For example, cracked ribs might be sustained during CPR, or a fracture might be made worse by moving a body out of traffic. The Good Samaritan Law says that, so long as the person was acting reasonably and responsibly to give emergency assistance, they cannot be held responsible for unforeseen injuries. Without fear of legal repercussions, those with the ability to help will be more likely to do so.
In order to encourage assistance in emergency situations, some states have even enacted Failure to Act laws. Under such laws, a bystander who does not offer reasonable assistance to a person in need can be charged with a misdemeanor charge and/or fine. As of 2023, only four states have Failure to Act Laws: Minnesota, Rhode Island, Vermont, and Louisiana.
What is the 911 Good Samaritan Law?
As the leading cause of accidental death in the US, drug overdose poses a serious concern. Furthermore, individuals who witness a drug overdose may be more hesitant to call 911 for fear of getting into legal trouble themselves. For this reason, 40 states have extended Good Samaritan legal immunity to individuals who call 911 in good faith to report a suspected drug overdose.
This applies to individuals who might be under the influence of drugs or alcohol themselves, including minors.
The ten states that do not currently offer drug overdose immunity to good samaritans: Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Wyoming.
Forgiven Offenses Under Colorado’s 911 Good Samaritan Law
In Colorado, a person dialing 911 in good faith to report a suspected overdose will not be arrested for the following specific offenses:
- Illegal possession of a controlled substance or drug paraphernalia
- Illegal use of a controlled substance
- Illegal possession of twelve ounces or less of marijuana and three ounces of less of marijuana concentrate
- Open consumption and/or display of less than two ounces of marijuana
- Transport or transference of less than 2 ounces of marijuana without intention to sell (no payment received)
- Illegal possession or consumption of alcohol or marijuana products by a minor
Which States Do Not Offer Overdose Immunity to Good Samaritans?
As of 2023, Arizona, Idaho, Iowa, Kansas, Maine, Missouri, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Texas, and Wyoming do not offer drug overdose immunity under their good samaritan laws.
Exceptions to the Good Samaritan Law
As with any legal statute, there are exceptions to Colorado’s Good Samaritan Law:
The Individual Must Not be a Paid Medical Professional
Passing individuals who happen to be in the medical field are still covered under the Good Samaritan Law. However, individuals who arrive at the scene specifically to treat a particular victim’s injuries and are paid to do so can still be held liable for additional or worsened injuries.
For example, an ambulance driver who makes a poor decision that leads to a crash can certainly be held responsible for additional damages sustained. Likewise, an Emergency Services Tech who neglects to properly restrain an individual could be liable for more injuries.
The Individual Must Act in Good Faith
By “good faith,” we mean that an individual acted appropriately and as skillfully as possible when administering first aid. They must have had some training or prior knowledge to perform assistance provided, for example. They must also not have acted in a “wanton” or “grossly negligent” manner. Excessively rough handling of a person, for example, or performing a complex medical procedure with no experience, are examples of gross negligence. Such actions are not protected under Good Samaritan laws.
Other Illegal Behavior
The 911 Good Samaritan law forgives only those specific offenses mentioned above. Any other unlawful behavior outside of these offenses can still be grounds for prosecution.
How Does the Good Samaritan Law Affect a Personal Injury Case?
Again, a victim cannot pursue legal action against an individual who was acting in good faith to assist them in an emergency. This does not mean, however, that they can’t seek damages that occurred due to another party’s negligence. The driver of a vehicle that caused an accident, for example, may be responsible for the original injuries.
Personal injury cases can quickly become emotional and complicated, especially if more than one party is involved. If you have been injured in the state of Colorado, contact Dave Roth with the Roth Group. Dave is a highly experienced personal injury attorney whose dedication and eye for detail helps each of his clients win the fairest settlement possible. Call or go online today to schedule a free consultation.