Shenzhen introduces Good Samaritan law

New regulation will protect people who render assistance to those in need and deter dishonest 'victims' who see a chance for easy money

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 01 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 01 August, 2013, 7:33am

The mainland's first Good Samaritan law comes into effect today in Shenzhen, a fresh effort by the government to change public attitudes towards helping others .

The new laws absolve people who render assistance from any liability arising from their efforts, unless they clearly commit "major faults" in the process.

This exemption, along with the presumption of innocence and the shift of the burden of proof to the party making the claim, form the core principles of the new law, said Zhou Chengxin , the director of the Shenzhen Municipal Office of Legislative Affairs who drafted the law.

In the past, people who have received help have sometimes gone on to sue their rescuer, often in the hopes of winning damages, fuelling the perception that offering assistance is too risky.

But under the new law, people who are helped and believe their rights were violated in the process should collect evidence themselves if they wish to sue the other party. Free legal aid will be available to Good Samaritans who are sued.

The rescued party will be made to apologise or be punished if they lie about the circumstances of the rescue and falsely accuse the rescuer of causing damage. If fraud is discovered, the rescued party can be prosecuted and the conviction will be recorded in their credit history.

Witnesses who testify for the do-gooders who have been sued will receive rewards from related government departments.

But to start changing attitudes now, local courts would need to make rulings in relevant cases to help show prospective Good Samaritans they have legal protection, Zhou said.

Canada, Australia, certain states in the US and many European countries already have Good Samaritan laws, although they differ in whether they offer protection for the rescuer or even make it an offence not to stop and offer assistance to victims of accidents.

The new law, called the Good Samaritans' Rights Protection Regulation of the Shenzhen Special Economic Zone, was prompted by a series of dramatic cases that gave rise to a nationwide discussion about the erosion of fundamental decency.

One of the first cases to grab headlines was in 2006 when Peng Yu , a 26-year-old student in Nanjing , Jiangsu province, was sued by a 65-year-old women for pushing her to the ground at a bus stop.

Peng was ordered to pay 45,877 yuan (HK$57,600), a large share of the woman's medical bills, in an original ruling in September 2007 though he insisted he had simply lent a helping hand to the woman after she fell over.

In October 2011, a surveillance camera in Foshan, near Guangzhou, caught a two-year-old girl, named Xiao Yueyue, being ignored by 18 passers-by after she was run over by two vans in a market. She died later in hospital.

"The new law clears the path for genuine Samaritans. From now on, I can feel safe to help people who have fallen on the ground," said Raye Cai, a Shenzhen resident.