If you've been a good Samaritan and tried to prevent a crime or help a victim, you shouldn't lose anything as a result of your efforts. And California apparently recognized that fact when it passed the Good Samaritan Act about 20 years ago.
In essence, the law allows you or your surviving spouse or children to recover up to $10,000 "for any injury, death, or damage sustained" as a direct consequence of certain meritorious deeds. The reimbursable expenses include medical bills, lost wages or property damage.
Police Officers Not Covered
The law applies to any private citizen (but not an on-duty police officer, lifeguard or similar official paid to perform such lifesaving deeds) who is hurt or killed or who sustains property damage as a result of apprehending a criminal, preventing the commission of a crime or rescuing a person in immediate danger of injury or death from fire, drowning or other catastrophe.
But there is a limit to the government's generosity. You're allowed to collect reimbursement for your monetary loss only to the extent that you have not been compensated "from any other source." So, if you incurred medical bills but had them paid by an insurance company, you can't collect for those payments under this law. And, according to a Court of Appeal decision issued earlier this month, you cannot collect money for "pain and suffering"--only for actual out-of-pocket losses.