NH Law About... Good Samaritans

Introduction to... Good Samaritans

Posted July 13, 2017.

New Hampshire's general Good Samaritan law is RSA 508:12, I, Aid at Scene of Emergency or to Victim of Crime.  Good Samaritan laws exist in most states and are meant to encourage people who witness emergency situations or crimes to help injured parties or victims.  The laws do this by giving immunity from suit for liability that might otherwise be imposed on those bystanders who voluntarily provide help. Good Samaritan laws are part of what the law calls “negligence,” a very large area of the civil law of torts having to do with who has a duty, who may be liable, and who is immune from liability when there is a personal injury or some other civil wrong. There are several other statutes in New Hampshire that provide similar limited immunity from liability specifically for physicians, medical practitioners, emergency personnel, volunteers and others who, in good faith and without charge, provide emergency services. 

RSA 508:12 was easy to find because there's an entry for Good Samaritan in the print index to the statutes. But those other, related statutes that we mentioned above? Not so much. Some are in the index, but we found at least four other statutes that offer limited immunity from liability when providing emergency aid that aren't under "Good Samaritan" - and there are probably more.  You'll have to be creative and persistent in your search. Check under Negligence, Emergencies, Emergency Medical Services, and the specific profession or situation you're interested in. Keywords to look for are: "liability," "immunity," "limitation," "negligence,"  "misconduct,"  "emergency," and "disaster."

It would be much tougher to find RSA 508:12 if you were keyword searching the Revised Statutes Online. That's because "Good Samaritan" is what's called a "popular name" and the phrase itself isn't used in RSA 508:12. Use the keywords that we pointed out above to find what you're looking for.  In these kinds of situations, a quick search on Wikipedia or some other similar site can help explain this concept and provide research terms that are more useful than the popular name of a statute.

Two books about New Hampshire law, Local Government Law (at §1036), and Personal Injury: Torts and Insurance Practice (at §9.42), discuss the Good Samaritan rule. In addition, Chapter 4 of Personal Injury discusses negligence and duty in New Hampshire. Follow the links below to find libraries that have these books.

Books written about the law, like Local Government Law and Personal Injury, have indexes, of course, but they also have other resources, or finding aids, that will help you to find information on your topic. We used one, called the Table of Statutes, to find more information for this guide. A Table of Statutes is a list of the statutes discussed in a law book. We looked up RSA 508:12 in the Table of Statutes and found several helpful sections. Using these tables can be a valuable, accurate way to quickly locate relevant discussions of legal concepts.  

Please remember that this guide is for information purposes only and is not comprehensive. It is intended as a starting point for research, to illustrate the various sources of the law, and to provide guidance in their use. NH Law About ...  is not a substitute for the services of an attorney.  

Read about... Good Samaritans


The Good Samaritan: A Parable of the Past or a Future Affirmative Duty? Attorney Kirsten B. Wilson (Bar Journal - March 1, 1999)

Link verified on: July 13, 2017

Should there be a legal duty to help others? Is this an instance when the general good of the community can carve away from the individuals' rights? Is this for the good of the community, or is this an attempt to legislate morality? These are some issues that legal scholars have been questioning for centuries.   GO>

Volunteers and Liability: An Overview of Legal Protections and Municipal Exposure. (New Hampshire Town and City, March 2007)

Link verified on: July 28, 2017

The word "tort" simply means "wrong." There are several types of conduct that constitute these legal wrongs. If the conduct causing harm is intentional, it is called an "intentional tort," and includes actions such as assaults that are not prosecuted as a crime. If the conduct invades a person's privacy, such as breach of confidentiality in the health care area, it could result in tort liability. Most injuries to persons and property result in a claim of "negligence." If a legally responsible person or entity had a duty to either do something or not do something, and as a result of a failure to adhere to that duty, a person is injured or property is damaged to some degree, there is tort liability for the negligent act or omission.   GO>


Local Government Law / Peter J. Loughlin. LexisNexis, 3rd ed. 2011  GO>

Link verified on: July 13, 2017

Personal injury : tort and insurance practice by Richard B McNamara. LexisNexis. 4th ed. 2015  GO>

Link verified on: July 28, 2017

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Read the law about... Good Samaritans


RSA 508. Limitation of Actions   GO>

Link verified on: July 13, 2017

Learn About New Hampshire Statutes: New Hampshire statutes are the laws of the State of New Hampshire as enacted by the New Hampshire General Court. GO>


AED Brands, Inc. AED State Laws

Link verified on: July 13, 2017

All fifty states have enacted laws and/or regulations requiring that public gathering places have AEDs available. Most of these laws allow a "Good Samaritan" exemption from liability for any individual who renders emergency treatment with a defibrillator. Click on your state to view AED legislation summaries and requirements.   GO>

FindLaw. Accidents and Injuries. Specific Legal Duties

Link verified on: July 13, 2017

Statutes that provide immunity from liability for people who assist others are called "Good Samaritan" laws. They are intended to encourage people to help others in need without having to worry about being sued if their help causes injury (or further injury) -- though acts that are found to be willfully "wanton" or "reckless" may not be immune from liability. Good Samaritan laws in most states still generally follow the legal rule that passersby do not have a duty to rescue others in need.   GO>

NCSL. Drug Overdose Immunity and Good Samaritan Laws (6/15/2017)

Link verified on: July 13, 2017

To encourage people to seek out medical attention for an overdose or for follow-up care after naloxone has been administered, 40 states and the District of Columbia have enacted some form of a Good Samaritan or 911 drug immunity law. These laws generally provide immunity from arrest, charge or prosecution for certain controlled substance possession and paraphernalia offenses when a person who is either experiencing an opiate-related overdose or observing one calls 911 for assistance or seeks medical attention. State laws are also increasingly providing immunity from violations of pretrial, probation or parole conditions and violations of protection or restraining orders.   GO>

Wikipedia. Good Samaritan Law

Link verified on: July 13, 2017

Good Samaritan laws take their name from a parable found in the Bible, attributed to Jesus, commonly referred to as the Parable of the Good Samaritan which is contained in Luke 10:25-37. It recounts the aid given by a traveler from the area known as Samaria to another traveler of a conflicting religious and ethnic background who had been beaten and robbed by bandits.   GO>

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