The Illinois Good Samaritan Act was designed to protect individuals from civil liability if they provide emergency care to victims without a fee and an injury or death occurs. There are a number of exceptions to the rule, however, that can have a significant impact on a medical malpractice case.
Exceptions for Physicians Acting in Emergencies
On-duty emergency room doctors are not shielded from liability when they treat patients in a medical facility if they receive compensation of any kind from the hospital or other third party. In short, doctors may not hide behind Good Samaritan laws by simply not billing a patient when a medical mishap occurs.
Additionally, when a licensed physician blatantly initiates inappropriate care when administering emergency care to a victim, he or she is not protected by the Illinois Good Samaritan Act and can be held liable for damages.
Willful or Wanton Misconduct
When a private citizen or volunteer medical professional commits willful or wanton misconduct while providing emergency care to a victim, he or she is disqualified from the protections offered by the Act. For example, if a medical professional completely disregards a patient’s allergy bracelet and administers medication anyway, he or she is aware that these actions will likely result in injury to the victim and may be guilty of willful or wanton misconduct.
A health care provider cannot use the Good Samaritan Act to avoid medical malpractice liability simply because a bill goes unpaid or is written off because it is deemed uncollectible. If billing was created for the services that were provided, the acts are not considered voluntary and therefore do not qualify for protections under the Good Samaritan Act.
Determining When the Good Samaritan Act Applies in Illinois
Since the laws surrounding medical malpractice and the Illinois Good Samaritan Act are never water-tight, and a single tiny factor can have a significant impact on a malpractice case, unique circumstances can make two cases that initially appear very similar be very different in reality. Therefore, victims of medical malpractice or negligence should be sure that their specific case is thoroughly evaluated to determine whether the Good Samaritan Act applies. By failing to do so, victims could be relinquishing their rights to financial compensation like:
- Reimbursement for medical treatment and equipment that are required due to the injury
- Money for lost wages
- Payment for pain and suffering