News 12 at 11 O'clock / Thursday, July 31, 2014
HARLEM, Ga. (WRDW) -- Temperatures were rising outside but inside of our test car, things were getting even hotter. Our test baby in the back seat, crying out for help. We saw what people would do when put to the test.
"I told him, don't touch it, I'm going inside to get somebody," said Joanna Stocks, who parked by our car.
Chelsea Dixon who's nine-months pregnant was in shock.
"I was going to bust the window but I was going to call the law first," she said.
We all know what the right thing to do is, but what's legal and what could end up costing you even if you do save a child's life.
"Know what's going on before you take immediate action, there's always more to the story," said Lt. Lewis Blanchard with the Richmond County Sheriffs Office.
Just like those unsuspecting bystanders in our experiment, they did double-takes even circling the car. They were looking for parents, anyone who might've walked away for just a split second.
"If you believe that that child's in danger, then immediately go ahead and call 911 and lets get people in route," he said.
That phone call, Lt. Lewis Blanchard says shows, you've taken the steps before taking action.
"It's very important you can describe exactly why you felt it was an immediate threat," he said.
Is the baby crying? Are they passed out? Can the baby respond?
"You want to make sure the person's actually in danger," Lt. Blanchard said.
Once you're sure, he says it's time to react and take action. But could you get in trouble for lets say, breaking a window or reaching into a car through a cracked window to unlock a door?
"As far as civil liability, that's one thing. As far as criminal liability, most likely, you're never going to be charged if you are actually trying to help someone," he said.
But when it comes to damages after it's all said and done, things get a little more complicated.
"Somebody can always sue you because you broke into their car, the chances of them winning, if you were actually saving a life or assisting a child in need, are slim to none," Lt. Blanchard said.
But would it even matter? For Nechel McMillan, the choice to save a life or save herself from a lawsuit was no question.
[News 12] "What was going through your head?"
[McMillan] "It was a baby out here somewhere, like for real?"
She made her way across the parking lot. once she heard the cries, determined to get what she thought was a real baby, out.
"I was going to try to open or get him to open the door or go in there and get the door open or something," she said.
Lt Blanchard says, "If there's a way to gain entry to the car without breaking a window, do it."
Less damage means less of a chance you'll fall into a lawsuit...
"You took the action, so most likely not, you took the action, you made that decision," he said.
A decision to step in and take control. A decision to possibly save a life.
According to Georgia's Good Samaritan Law, you could be responsible for those damages if the car owner decided they wanted to sue.
But just across the river a completely different story. If you break a window and save a kids life in South Carolina, you're not libel for any of the damage.
Georgia Good Samaritan Law:
Code of Georgia, §31-11-8
Liability of persons rendering emergency care; liability of physicians advising ambulance service pursuant to Code Section 31-11-50; limitation to gratuitous services.
a. Any person, including agents and employees, 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.
b. A physician shall not be civilly liable for damages resulting from that physician's acting as medical adviser to an ambulance service, pursuant to Code Section 31-11-50, if those damages are not a result of that physician's willful and wanton negligence.
c. The immunity provided in this Code section shall apply only to those persons who perform the aforesaid emergency services for no remuneration.
Code of Georgia §51-1-29Liability of persons rendering emergency care.
Any person, including any person licensed to practice medicine and surgery pursuant to Article 2 of Chapter 34 of Title 43 and including any person licensed to render services ancillary thereto, who in good faith renders emergency care at the scene of an accident or emergency to the victim or victims thereof 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.
South Carolina Good Samaritan Law:
SECTION 15-1-310. Liability for emergency care rendered at scene of accident.
Any person, who in good faith gratuitously renders emergency care at the scene of an accident or emergency to the victim thereof, shall not be liable for any civil damages for any personal injury as a result of any act or omission by such person in rendering the 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, except acts or omissions amounting to gross negligence or willful or wanton misconduct.