Volunteering Liability - Is It Covered?

Volunteering liability is a frequent topic of conversation after a natural disaster or an unfortunate event. People often question whether malpractice policies will protect the insured in the event of volunteering to provide emergency medical assistance.

Volunteer actions commonly fall under the category of Good Samaritan laws. These are legal protections found at the state level that vary from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. They were written to encourage bystanders to help when they witness, or are called upon to assist, someone who is injured or has a sudden illness. Good Samaritan laws take away the threat of legal action in an event of unintentional injury or death as a result of care being rendered. 

However, there are some rules defining volunteer actions of which a provider should be aware:

  • There is no duty to provide assistance; providing assistance is an ethical and personal decision
  • In most states, the care must be provided at the scene of the emergency, outside a hospital, doctor’s office or medical facility
  • The law does not provide protection against criminal behavior which is intentional or malicious actions, including:
    • Intentionally inflicting additional injury
    • Providing care that would exacerbate or create injury
    • Being extremely reckless in providing care
  • Once care is started, it must be continued until EMS arrives
  • Care should be for stabilization only
  • No payment for the rendering of care can be requested or received from either the patient or someone on their behalf such as their insurance

To learn more about the Good Samaritan laws in your state, contact your local medical association or legal counsel. You may also view the Medical Economics article, “Volunteering: The benefits and risks for physicians” (Kreimer, 2015). 

Kreimer, S. (2015, September 3). Volunteering: The benefits and risks for physicians. Retrieved from Medical Economics: http://medicaleconomics.modernmedicine.com/medical-economics/news/volunteering-benefits-and-risks-physicians?page=0,3

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