The Good Samaritan: Can I Sue the Physician Who Helped Me at the Scene of an Accident?

A physician is driving in her car behind you on the highway when your vehicle spins out of control and collides with another vehicle. She stops on the roadside and helps you at the scene of the accident. Can the physician be sued for malpractice?

The above scenario is a classic “rescuer” case whereby a person voluntarily and gratuitously provides assistance at the site of an emergency. In Canada, most provincial and territorial legislatures have enacted Good Samaritan laws to protect a rescuer from being sued for negligence in rendering care.

For physicians in Nova Scotia, the Medical Act, SNS 2011, c 38, s 65, confirms that a physician who voluntarily renders first aid or emergency treatment without the expectation of monetary compensation to a person outside of a hospital or a doctor’s office cannot be sued for damages alleged to have been sustained by that person because of the physician’s act or omission in rendering first aid or emergency treatment.

There is an exception to this Good Samaritan protection, and it is gross negligence. Gross negligence is usually established by proving that further injury or harm to the victim was caused by the conduct of the physician, and that the physician’s conduct would constitute negligence when compared to another physician of ordinary experience, learning or skill. It is quite difficult for a physician to fall below this standard given the fact that she does not have access to medical tools in the case of an emergency that occurs outside the hospital or doctor’s office.

Realistically, physicians can rarely be sued for their conduct at the scene of an emergency. 

If you believe that you have received improper or negligent medical treatment, contact of the members of the Patterson Law Personal Injury Team for advice. Please note that this article is meant to provide information only and is not intended to confer legal advice or opinion. If you have any further questions please consult a lawyer. Please note as well that many of the statements are general principles which may vary on a case by case basis.