Engineers' Good Samaritan Laws

Engineers' Good Samaritan Laws

Talking Points

  • Engineers' Good Samaritan Laws provide the liability protection to professional engineers so that they can provide voluntary engineering services without concern.
  • All states provide immunity to individuals who voluntarily assist the injured in emergency situations, and passing this legislation would expand that immunity.
  • The Model Engineers' Good Samaritan Law ensures that the immunity is removed if there is wanton, willful, or intentional misconduct, ensuring protection to those who are using the engineering services.

NSPE Position
NSPE supports the adoption of Good Samaritan laws that provide immunity from liability for any personal injury, wrongful death, property damage, or other loss caused by a professional engineer's acts, errors, or omissions in the performance of voluntary engineering services. Such laws eliminate the liability deterrent that may inhibit engineers from providing voluntary services. In doing so, it promotes the voluntary participation by professional engineers in emergency relief efforts. In addition, Engineers' Good Samaritan laws allow states and localities to factor in voluntary engineering assistance when planning for disasters.

Background
During natural disasters or other catastrophic events, the demand for emergency services often exceeds the capacity of government agencies. State and local governments rely on the private sector to assist in responding to the relief and recovery needs of communities. The expertise and skills of professional engineers are particularly needed in times of such crises. States and localities need assurances that professional engineers will assist in providing essential engineering services.

Professional engineers are willing to voluntarily assist in emergency situations. However, they face substantial liability exposure when doing so. Without sufficient immunity from liability, professional engineers may be hesitant to volunteer.

Some states have responded to this concern, but only after an emergency situation occurred. For example, when Hurricane Hugo struck South Carolina in 1989, engineers were made temporary employees of the state so that they could assist in relief efforts without fear of liability exposure. In Florida, the state Department of Community Affairs granted engineers "agent of the state" status in order to afford the volunteer engineers liability protection when they responded to Hurricane Andrew in 1992. However, this practice is legally untested and vague, and may still leave the volunteers exposed to liability.

Other state legislatures have addressed engineers' liability concerns in advance of an emergency by adopting Good Samaritan statutes that provide immunity from liability to professional engineers who provide voluntary engineering services in connection with a declared emergency. Good Samaritan protection is not unique to engineers. All states, for example, provide some immunity to individuals who voluntarily assist the injured in emergency situations.


NSPE Reference
Professional Policy 170 - Legislation to Address Professional Liability and Risk Management for Engineers

Issue Brief and Position: