The Good Samaritan law for CPR serves to shield people who want to help someone in a medical emergency from liability in some cases.
Imagine you’re on your lunch break and see someone choking. You want to help but aren’t certified in CPR and are unsure how to handle the situation appropriately. In such cases, when you want to help someone regain consciousness or be of assistance until emergency teams arrive, Good Samaritan laws can safeguard you from potential liability.
In the U.S., lawmakers have compiled comprehensive regulations on when and how someone can be held liable after performing CPR or administering first aid in the case of an emergency.
Continue reading to understand the nuances of the Good Samaritan laws regarding CPR.
What Is at the Core of the Good Samaritan Law for CPR?
What is the Good Samaritan law for CPR? In the U.S., Good Samaritan laws are implemented on a national scale to offer a legal shield to people helping others and keep them safe from legal prosecution. In general, the law protects bystanders who decide to act in the case of a medical emergency by assisting a choking victim, a sufferer of cardiac arrest, a trauma victim, and so on.
In such scenarios, bystanders usually resort to administering CPR or AED to help someone rise above the medical emergency. When a bystander wants to help an unconscious person get back on their feet or do chest compressions on someone in cardiac arrest, the Good Samaritan law protects them from being legally prosecuted.
To be able to enforce the Good Samaritan law to protect you, you have to fulfill the following requirements:
- Ask for permission to help (if the person is unconscious, consent is insinuated);
- Act in accordance with training (if you’ve had any);
- Give help voluntarily (without being pressured to)
- Don’t be negligent and approach the victim carefully.
Bystanders that step forward to offer assistance are protected under the Good Samaritan laws without expecting anything in return (a reward, a favor, or anything else).
In some instances of the law’s interpretation, accepting a gift after the act of helping can nullify the legal protection of the law. As such, lawyers and other legal professionals strongly advise good samaritans to refuse any gifts or money — a simple You’re welcome will suffice.
Who’s Considered a Good Samaritan?
Someone who performs a selfless act of help in times of need to a stranger, or anyone else, is considered a good samaritan. Through a legal connotation, a good samaritan is a person that willingly delivers help to an injured or incapacitated person.
Moreover, a good samaritan can help someone and still make mistakes along the way, unintentionally, of course. In that case, the Good Samaritan laws will offer legal protection against prosecution.
It’s worth mentioning that a good samaritan isn’t obligated to take on the responsibility of fully caring for the injured person (unless they happen to be a medical professional). In other words, a good samaritan will first call 911 and then step forward to aid a victim of cardiac arrest, choking, fracture, bleeding, and so on.
What Is the Objective of the Good Samaritan Law?
The quintessential purpose of the Good Samaritan laws is to protect ordinary people who help a victim of an accident from being legally charged for a number of reasons. A good portion of the Good Samaritan laws is developed to safeguard the general public from legal consequences.
According to the law, if no medical professional or emergency responder is available to help a victim at the moment, a bystander can step forward to help. Since it’s presumed that a good samaritan isn’t medically trained, and errors and oversights are possible, the law protects them from standing liable for the casualty’s death or further injury.
Different stances of the Good Samaritan laws refer to different medical emergencies. For instance, if the good Samaritan that stopped to help a cardiac arrest victim isn’t trained in CPR but administers it anyway, they might be held accountable if the victim suffers more injuries. However, this mainly refers to cases where gross negligence is recorded.
The ultimate objective of these laws is to encourage bystanders to offer help without hesitation. In a grave medical emergency, the laws will protect good Samaritans from legal aftermaths without fear or panic of legal accountability.
When Do Good Samaritan Laws Come Into Effect?
As we mentioned, the Good Samaritan Act safeguards the general public from being held legally liable in the case they help someone in a medical emergency.
Sudden cardiac arrests and choking are the most common instances of out-of-hospital deaths. Since the number of deaths due to cardiac arrest increases every year, health organizations like the AHA (American Heart Association) and the American Red Cross highly recommend bystanders learn CPR to be able to help victims until emergency medical teams arrive.
In essence, good samaritans are shielded from suing, fining, or arresting because of an action they took to help an injured person. If the victim is conscious, a Good Samaritan Law for CPR will protect the bystander only if they received consent for help from the victim.
The Good Samaritan law regards medical emergencies as situations when someone gets injured or faces a life-threatening condition. In other words, if someone suffers a heart attack or a cardiac arrest while grocery shopping, the person that comes forward to help and call 911 is a good samaritan helping in a medical emergency.
Good faith is a term used to define willful acts of help. It describes voluntary and devoted acts of performance or obligations. For instance, if someone is certified in CPR but hasn’t actually performed the action in a while, the lack of practice might lead to making blunders while doing chest compressions.
In that case, the person acts in good faith and does the best to their knowledge to help a person in a medical emergency. Loss of consciousness due to fatigue is more and more prevalent these days, making acts of good faith that much more appreciated.
What Is Gross Negligence in the Good Samaritan Laws for CPR?
The term gross negligence refers to pitfalls during the duty to care. The phrase encompasses brutal negligence that can be perceived as intentionally harmful, malicious, and clear endangerment of someone’s life.
A good example of gross negligence is when a driver does not stop his vehicle at a Stop sign and poses a potential threat to pedestrians. However, another example is a bystander administering CPR without paying attention not to hurt the victim or being too rough and causing a fracture. In such cases, the Good Samaritan laws don’t consider the bystander a good samaritan.
Good Samaritan Law for CPR Throughout the U.S.
Common misconceptions about Good Samaritan Laws include the belief that the laws are in full effect everywhere across the U.S. However, all of the 50 states in the U.S. impose some Good Samaritan laws – they just differ from state to state.
For instance, California, Maryland, Illinois, Texas, Tennessee, and other states encourage bystanders to step forward and help a person in a medical emergency by enforcing Good Samaritan laws.
What We Learned About Good Samaritan Law for CPR
What is the Good Samaritan law for CPR? In most places in the U.S., Good Samaritan laws will safeguard bystanders from suffering legal consequences in the case of a medical emergency. Whether your CPR certification is pending renewal, or it’s been a while since you performed it on a person in need — you’ll still be protected under the Good Samaritan laws.
Yet, regardless of whether the law will protect you or not, you should still stay on top of your CPR knowledge and do your best to avoid any misunderstandings regarding the method. With updated knowledge of CPR, you’ll be able to minimize the margin for errors and use any incorrect techniques, such as resorting to rescue breaths before doing chest compressions first.
If you feel you’ve received inadequate training in the past, you can always turn to reliable health organizations (the AHA and the American Red Cross) and enroll in an online CPR class.
Lastly, if you happen to get the chance to be a good Samaritan, forget about hesitation — call 911 and start performing CPR on the casualty. And remember, impatience isn’t your friend — give the chest compressions enough time to allow the chest wall to recoil before going in for another set of compressions.