All U.S states have some type of “Good Samaritan” laws that offer legal protection to individuals who provide assistance to those in emergency situations. The Rhode Island Supreme Court recently heard the case of Hudson v. GEICO Insurance where a passenger of an insured vehicle left the car to help an accident victim and was then struck by another vehicle while assisting.
Plaintiff Amber Lee Hudson and her boyfriend were arriving at a department store when they witnessed a vehicle collision. They both quickly exited their car and approached the accident scene to help. While Hudson was standing behind one of the vehicles documenting license plate information, she was struck by another car passing through the scene.
Hudson received compensation from the insurer of the driver who struck her up to the amount of the policy limit, which was apparently insufficient to cover the extent of the damages that she sustained. She next filed a claim with GEICO, who was their auto insurer at the time, for additional compensation from the underinsured motorist provision of the policy. According to Rhode Island law, the court employed a four-part “test” which is used to determine if she qualified for underinsured coverage in this instance as follows:
- Whether there is a connection or relationship between the usage of the insured vehicle and the injury that occurred
- If the vehicle occupant was reasonably in close proximity to the insured vehicle
- That the incident or activities engaged in at the time were “vehicle-oriented”
- Whether the individual was engaged in activity necessary for using the vehicle
The court determined that a causal relationship existed between usage of the insured vehicle and her injury. Hudson was a vehicle passenger at the time of witnessing the collision and left the car to offer assistance as a Good Samaritan. She was determined to be in proximity of the vehicle throughout the incident. The court stated that Hudson had temporarily left the vehicle and intended on returning to it, which demonstrated she was involved in “vehicle-oriented” activity.
She further had been engaged in a necessary activity relating to the usage of the vehicle. Her willingness to provide aid to someone in a “perilous situation” was initiated while she was a passenger in the vehicle and was an example of an act that the state has long supported and encouraged for the betterment of public safety.
Maryland Good Samaritan Law
Maryland’s variation of this law is focused on encouraging people to assist those believed to be having a medical emergency brought on from use of drugs or alcohol. The law applies to those rendering assistance in situations where someone may be “overdosing”. It shields the individual from arrest or prosecution for several misdemeanor offenses which include the following:
- Possession or use of controlled substances
- Possession or use of drug paraphernalia
- Underage alcohol possession
- Providing or allowing underage alcohol consumption
- The law does not apply to those who are merely bystanders (must be providing assistance)