In an emergency situation, your first thought is most likely going to focus on anyone who has sustained life-threatening injuries. Rushing to provide help is usually an impulse that most people have. However, after the fact, you may be concerned about whether you could be held legally responsible for the quality of care that you provided, especially if the individual has sustained life-altering injuries or lost his life. In particular, you may be wondering if you can be sued for providing CPR or first aid.
The 2000 Federal Cardiac Arrest Survival Act
This important federal act gave a great deal of protection to bystanders who were providing first aid. In general, it protects those giving CPR from civil charges as long as they are acting in the individual’s best interest and are not providing grossly incompetent care with an intent to harm. In addition, this act covered AEDs, which are automatic external defibrillators. Following passage of the law, more AEDs could be found in a variety of facilities, and users were covered from civil prosecution when using them.
Good Samaritan Laws
In addition, state-specific Good Samaritan laws further protect individuals from lawsuits and, in some cases, require bystanders to provide first aid or reasonable assistance if they do not want to be fined. You should be sure that you know the exact requirements of your state’s Good Samaritan laws, especially if you are a health care provider. However, you can choose to see these laws as additional layers of protection.
Another concept to keep in mind is that most laws will protect you from being sued if the individual has given his consent to receiving first aid from you. If the patient is unresponsive and in need of CPR, he has given implied consent, and you can feel confident in providing help. In addition, consider whether the individual has a DNR, or Do Not Resuscitate, order. If you are a bystander, you will probably not know this, but if you are a health care provider who knows that the individual is a DNR, you may be held liable for the life-saving care you give.
As you can see, there are plenty of laws in place to protect you from lawsuits if you are doing the best you can at saving a life. While you may still be sued by anyone at any time, the suit will most likely not be upheld.
Remember that CPR and general first aid classes are not solely designed for those in the medical community. Even if you are not a doctor, nurse or other health care worker, you can gain confidence and skills for dealing with many emergency situations from a short class. Whether you are a daycare worker, a personal trainer or even a mom or dad in the community, a Basic Life Support Class from Project Heartbeat will give you the hands-on experience you need to deal quickly and accurately with the next life-threatening emergency you witness.