Dec 16, 2023

Furthering the Rights of Good Samaritans

Motor vehicle accidents require immediate rescue and medical care. which people who are closest to the scene of the accident can provide. The support from bystanders can improve the chances of survival of a victim in the first hour of the injury, also known as the Golden Hour. 

To make sure that the victims of road accidents receive help from the bystanders without the bystanders having any fear of harassment, the Supreme Court has given effect to the Good Samaritan Law. According to this law, a Good Samaritan is a person who voluntarily, in good faith and without expectation of any reward helps a victim in getting emergency medical or non-medical care or assistance at the place where the accident takes place. This includes taking the victim to the hospital.

According to the Good Samaritan law:

  • A bystander or Good Samaritan who takes an accident victim to a hospital should be allowed to leave immediately after, no questions asked.
  • They should be rewarded/compensated in a manner specified by the State governments, to encourage others to follow suit.
  • They should not be liable for any civil or criminal liability arising from the accident.
  • They can report the accident anonymously to the police on the phone. They cannot be compelled to reveal their identification details.
  • Similarly, they can anonymously fill out the Medico-legal Form in hospitals. In both places, the Good Samaritan can voluntarily provide their details.
  • In case the Good Samaritan agrees to be a witness in the case, and is required for investigation by police, they may be examined once. After that, the police should harass or intimidate them. The State government should ensure this through appropriate methods.
  • Hospitals are not to detain Good Samaritans or demand treatment costs from them.
  • If a doctor does not provide immediate emergency care as required in an accident case, it shall constitute ‘professional misconduct’ and will become a cause for disciplinary action.

Recently, the High Court of Delhi extended the scope of these laws to enhance the protection for those Good Samaritans who themselves get injured while helping the victims of motor vehicle accidents. In a case that came before the court, a truck driver stopped on the road to look after a victim of a motor vehicle accident on the other side of the road, and upon returning, he was struck by an untraced vehicle driven at a fast speed. The truck driver passed away before he could reach the hospital. His widow claimed compensation from his employer under the Employee Compensation Act, as the accident took place during his employment. However, the employer stated that going across the road to help an accident victim was not a part of his duties as a truck driver. 

The court observed that any accident resulting from a risk associated with the ordinary duties of the driver will be covered during his employment. The court awarded compensation to the widow of the truck driver stating that helping victims of road accidents is a prime duty of everyone and would form a part of the ordinary duties of a truck driver.

If you need to help an accident victim, you can contact the National Highway Helpline at 1033. You can also report road accidents on the Sukhad Yatra App of the Ministry of Road Transport and Highways.