Last week, an unusual event occurred in the Atlanta area involving a man leaning over the wheel of his pick up truck, stopped with the motor running and apparently asleep. A news team spotted him and called 911. More on the details follow, but thankfully the incident ended without major injuries to anyone else on the road. This story caused me to think about how the way we react to situations can make all the difference in someone’s life. The news team did not know why he looked like he was sleeping. What if he had been having a medical emergency? Are there times when we see someone in distress and assume they are simply trying to make us late to the office by taking too long at a stop light? Do we call authorities when we see someone in possible distress?
There is a concept in the law called the Good Samaritan which comes from an ancient Biblical story about a person who helped a stranger who had been harmed by others. As the story goes, the man was from Samaria. In modern times, a Good Samaritan is someone who helps in an emergency. This concept has survived through the ages and in our state, the Official Code of Georgia Annotated sections 31-11-8 and 51-1-29, codifies a part of this ancient concept and provides protection from civil liability for doctors and others who provide volunteer emergency medical support. This concept helps enable those with the skill to perform emergency care after an accident or sudden medical problem to feel confident that they can do so without being later held liable for something going wrong.
We all know of the call “is there a doctor in the house?” When a doctor magically appears from the audience in a theater or on an airplane to support someone in a sudden medical emergency, we want the law to support the doctor, nurse or other medical professional to try to save a life. We would want that help for ourselves or a loved one. The Good Samaritan law enables that help to be more readily given. As non-medical professionals, the rest of us need to call 911 or help an injured person to a medical facility.
So back to the story about the man sleeping at the wheel. What is interesting about this situation was the way the man was discovered. A local news woman and her photographer spotted the man sleeping over the wheel of his vehicle while the motor was still on. Obviously they were not aware as to whether the man was having a medical emergency or simply fell asleep at the wheel.
They did the sensible thing and called 911 and one of Atlanta’s Highway Emergency Response Operators reached the scene and sought to wake the driver up from his slumber. Oddly, the man became agitated and was able to swiftly drive away from the scene. Unfortunately, in the process he struck two other vehicles which ultimately resulted in a pile up of three additional vehicles.
The Highway Emergency Response Operator then tried again to halt the truck from causing further damage or harm. Amazingly, the driver ran out of his vehicle and escaped from law enforcement. Thankfully, the damage appears to have been fairly limited. And due to the great work of an early responders perhaps lives were saved.
If you have a legal question about an injury you have sustained or an accident in which you have been hurt, please contact me at my law offices. I will provide a free consultation for you and your family and can help evaluate your options. Sometimes people that have suffered injury do not realize that others may be responsible and that the law might well provide support and recovery for them.