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Darren Tobin
Darren Tobin
Attorney • (866) 735-1102 Ext 305

Hit and Run Drivers Penalized; Good Samaritans Protected

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61 year old maintenance supervisor for Georgia Pacific, William Kear, tragically died after assisting another motorist in distress. Early Saturday morning on October 8th, Kear was driving to work on Interstate 85. While on route, one of the tires on his pickup truck went flat.

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, Kear pulled over onto the right shoulder just north of Clairmont Road. He was changing his flat tire when he spotted what looked like a drunk driver crash into a traffic cone and construction sign in a closed HOT lane. Acting as a Good Samaritan, Kear went to check on this driver. As he was checking on the driver, Kear was struck by a navy blue, 300 series BMW. Sadly, while rending his generosity to help someone else, he was killed by a reckless driver.

After the BMW hit Kear, its driver took off and fled from the the scene of this tragic accident. DeKalb county police are currently looking for the driver. DeKalb police Maj. James Conroy said that the 1990 BMW “should have noticeable damage to the front end and possibly windshield.”

Kear’s funeral is scheduled this weekend at Alpharetta’s Northside Chapel. Anyone who has information about this suspected hit and run driver should contact the police: 770-724-7610. Our thoughts are with Mr. Kear and his family.

A hit and run accident is considered a serious crime in the state of Georgia, and one that carries tough legal penalties. Georgia law states that it is illegal to leave the scene of an accident before driver information is exchanged, injuries are attended to, and/or police or emergency professionals arrive on the scene. Drivers who fail to do so are committing a “hit and run”- which, depending on the circumstances, can be classified as a felony or a misdemeanor.

While the law punishes those who shirk responsbility and flee, Georgia law provides protection for kind people just like William Kear who are Good Samaritans and stop to help other motorists who have been injured.

Good Samaritans, who stop to help, can take comfort knowing that their good deeds will not expose them to liability. A Good Samaritan is a person who sees another individual in serious danger and attempts to help or rescue the injured party. So long as the rescuer’s attempt to help is not reckless, he acts as a “reasonably prudent man would have acted under the same or similar circumstances”, and he does not charge for his service, then the rescuer is protected by the Good Samaritan doctrine and cannot be charged with civil liability for injuries that may arise from his negligence. Whenever possible, the rescuer should get the person he is helping to give permission. Of course, if the rescuer is the person who created the danger in the first, then it’s a different story and he can’t claim the protection.

O.C.G.A. § 51-1-29 provides relief from civil liability of practitioners rending emergency care. Any individual, including doctors, who in good faith renders emergency care at the scene of an accident or emergency to a victim without making any charge therefore, shall not be liable for any civil damages as a result of any act or omission by such person in rendering emergency care or as a result of any act or failure to act to provide or arrange for further medical treatment or care for the injured person.

Additionally, O.C.G.A. § 31-11-8 provides that any person who is licensed to furnish ambulance service and who in good faith renders emergency care to a person who is a victim of an accident or emergency shall not be liable for any civil damages to such victim as a result of any act or omission by such person in rendering such emergency care to such victim; a physician shall not be civilly liable for damages resulting from that physician’s acting as medical adviser to an ambulance service, if those damages are not a result of that physician’s willful and wanton negligence. Note, that in order for the immunity provided in this Code section to apply, the Good Samaritan who performs the aforesaid emergency services cannot charge for his services.

Another important Georgia law that covers this area is found in O.C.G.A. § 52-7-14:

“(a) Duty to render assistance and identify vessel and self. It shall be the duty of the operator of a vessel involved in a collision, accident, or other casualty, so far as he can do so without serious danger to his own vessel, crew, and passengers, to render to other persons affected by the collision, accident, or other casualty such assistance as may be practicable and as may be necessary in order to save them from or minimize any danger caused by the collision, accident, or other casualty and also to give his name, address, and identification of his vessel in writing to any person injured and to the owner of any property damaged in the collision, accident, or other casualty.

(b) Good Samaritan clause. Any person complying with subsection (a) of this Code section who gratuitously and in good faith renders assistance at the scene of a vessel collision, accident, or other casualty without the objection of any person assisted, shall not be held liable for any civil damages as a result of the rendering of assistance or for any act of assistance in providing or arranging salvage towage, medical treatment, or other assistance if the assisting person acts as a reasonably prudent man would have acted under the same or similar circumstances.”

Oftentimes, as we drive along, we pass motorists who have been pulled over by a police officer or who are having car trouble. Our curiosity takes over and we slow down to get a better look. In those rare circumstances when we actually see someone who needs our help, we can act with confidence and stop to help knowing that Georgia law protects our gratuitous and good actions. The Good Samaritan doctrine helps those who help others. William Kear was a Good Samaritan; a good man.