There’s no question that CPR is a lifesaving procedure and absolutely crucial for anyone to know. However, CPR done correctly can leave the patient with broken ribs and bruising. Unfortunately, some people will do their best to take the individual who performed CPR to court over injuries caused during the rescue attempt.
Fortunately, if you are acting in good faith to save someone during an emergency event, you have legal protection under the aptly named Good Samaritan Act. Simply put, this law protects you from legal prosecution after you intervene to help in an emergency. To better understand your rights and responsibilities under this law, let’s take a closer look.
What Does the Law Say?
To quote the law itself, “a person who in good faith administers emergency care at the scene of an emergency or in a hospital is not liable in civil damages for an act performed during the emergency unless the act is willfully or wantonly negligent.” In other words, intervening to help during an emergency situation (especially as a first responder) is a legally protected action. However, acting in a deliberately misguided or negligent way during an emergency (for instance, trying to give CPR to someone with only a broken leg) is not protected.
Where Does Consent Come In?
People will sometimes refuse emergency help for a variety of reasons. Continuing to intervene after a clear refusal could land you in trouble. However, there are cases where a person cannot consent to emergency aid and the Good Samaritan Act assumes consent, including scenarios such as:
- The victim is unconscious, choking, or otherwise unable to consent but clearly needs help.
- The victim is a child and their guardian is either absent or similarly unable to consent.
If the victim is alert and able to respond to you, always try to obtain their consent before administering aid. However, if you intervene and administer first aid when a person is unable to consent to help, you are legally protected.
Pro Tip: Before performing CPR, people are taught to ask the victim if they’re ok. This is as much to judge whether consent is implied as it is to judge the level of injury.
What are You Protected Against?
As long as you acted in good faith to help another person, you are legally protected from injuries that may occur in the process. As mentioned above, CPR can leave an adult with severe bruising or broken ribs, which can lead to some people suing their rescuer for damages. Fortunately, the law protects you from this scenario. If the victim was judged to have truly been in danger and your actions saved them, they have no basis to sue you for their injuries.
What Does the Law Not Protect?
Generally, only people who intervene without expecting rewards for their actions are protected by the law. This means that an on-duty doctor or EMT, unless called to the scene, would not be protected from legal action since they’re employed in the healthcare field and can expect monetary compensation for their intervention.
In practical terms, this means that if someone offers you money or a reward after you’ve performed emergency aid, NEVER accept it. If you take the money, it could be argued that you are no longer protected from any consequences should further injury occur.
Protect Yourself in an Emergency Situation
As you hurry to give CPR to someone who needs it, protecting yourself legally may not be on your mind. However, it’s absolutely imperative to understand the far-reaching implications of the Good Samaritan Act. Help others and keep yourself legally compliant as you use your newfound CPR skills.
Connect with us to learn more about safely intervening in an emergency situation.