No, you are not required by law to stop and assist if you see a car accident happen, provided you are not involved in the accident. In the U.S., most states have no general law that says citizens have a duty to stop and render aid. In other words, no one can sue you if you don’t stop to help.
This does not apply if you’re in any way party to the accident, though. If you are involved in the accident, Indiana law requires you stop. Failure to do so deems the accident a hit and run, which is a criminal offense.
Good Samaritans Are Protected by the Law
You don’t have to stop and help if you see a wreck, but of course, you might want to out of kindness and moral obligation. Some folks are leery about stopping and helping because they’ve heard stories of do-gooders getting sued by people they were trying to help because something went wrong.
Fortunately though, the State of Indiana has Good Samaritan laws that protect people from lawsuits should something go awry and you accidentally cause harm.
IC 34-30-12-1 clearly states:
“A person who comes upon the scene of an emergency or accident…and, in good faith, gratuitously renders emergency care at the scene of the emergency or accident is immune from civil liability.”
In other words, if the victim you are trying to help suffers personal injury because of something you accidentally did or failed to do, they cannot sue you. (Unless, of course, there is evidence of gross negligence or willful misconduct.)
Meanwhile, the Good Samaritan Act, signed into law in 2013 as IC 34-30-27, also provides immunity for certain professionals who render aid. For instance, if a professional engineer volunteers his or her services after a natural disaster, he or she cannot be sued.
Helping at the Scene of an Accident
If you stop at the scene of an accident to render aid, take the following steps:
- Call 9-1-1 and inform the operator of the wreck
- See if anybody is hurt and needs medical assistance, informing the 9-1-1 operator if there are injuries
- Avoid moving seriously injured victims, as it may worsen the injuries
- Remove an accident victim from a dangerous situation if possible
- Cooperate with police and other authorities who arrive at the scene
Good Samaritans Save Lives
Although you are not legally obligated to stop and help, the fact is that Good Samaritans save lives. Recently in Fort Wayne, a woman was in a burning vehicle after an accident and an off-duty state trooper stopped to try to pull her out, to no avail. Another man – a regular citizen – then stopped to help and he and the officer successfully pulled the victim out.
The officer commented, “Without [the Good Samaritan’s] help, there was no getting her out of that vehicle. He was instrumental in helping me take her out of that vehicle and to me he’s the true hero in all of this.”
Legal Counsel in Indiana
For legal questions or concerns about liability or car accidents in Indiana, contact our attorneys at Hensley Legal Group. Download our free eBook, Consumer’s Guide for Injured Victims, and call today for a FREE, no-obligation legal consultation: (317) 472-3333