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Washington state expands ‘good Samaritan’ law to protect volunteers in emergencies, disasters

UPDATED: Fri., May 14, 2021

By Amanda Zhou Seattle Times

Washington state has expanded its “good Samaritan” law to protect volunteers who help others during emergencies or natural disasters.

HB Bill 1209, sponsored by Rep. Dan Bronoske, D-Lakewood, passed both chambers of the Legislature this session with unanimous bipartisan support.

Gov. Jay Inslee signed it into law on April 16. It will take effect on July 25.

The law states that a volunteer won’t be liable for civil damages while providing nonmedical care at the scene of an emergency or disaster unless the act rises to the level of “gross negligence” or “willful or wanton misconduct.”

Previously the good Samaritan law only covered medical response. The Seattle Emergency Communications Hubs began pushing for the expansion last year, as volunteers became concerned about the limitation.

The new law will allow more people to help in response to these types of scenarios, Cindi Barker from Seattle Emergency Hubs said in a statement.

In a recent news release, Bronoske used the example of a volunteer breaking down a door or window without fear of personal liability when trying to help someone escape from a flood.

The expansion also covers response and rescue operations like providing food, supplies, transportation or child care, the law states.

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