Don't Help, You'll get Sued!

“I Might be sued”

 

One of the most common questions we receive is "Will I get sued if I give first aid to a casualty?"

 

Simple rules to work by: 

 

Rule 1:  Act in the best interest of the casualty

Rule 2:  Only treat in the manner in which you have been trained

Rule 3:  Only treat if you are willing and able to do so

 

Two common situations we are often asked about:

 

1.  Do I move an unconscious casualty, who isn't breathing if they have a suspected spinal injury? 

 

This dilemma is frequently perpetuated on TV or even in reality "Don't move them! They might have a neck injury!"

Remember the 3 Rules:

1. If you are willing to treat the casualty, being aware of the seriousness of the situation and confident in your abilities, then proceed.

2. Opening the airway in the manner in which you have been trained limits the potential damage to a spinal injury.

3. This is a life-saving procedure which is in the best interest of the casualty.

It may be that the casualty has a spinal injury and you might make it worse by opening the airway but an unconscious casualty – especially if on their back – cannot maintain their own airway.  If their airway is blocked they will not be able to breathe and this takes priority over any injury.   If you have treated the casualty in line with your training it is therefore unlikely a claim will be made against you.

 

 2.  Am I liable if I break someone's ribs when performing CPR?

 

Remember the 3 Rules

 

1. If you are willing to treat the casualty, being aware of the seriousness of the situation and confident in your abilities, then proceed.

2. Performing CPR is a skill which needs to be taught to be effective.  Performing CPR as you have been trained will protect you to a greater extent than violently or haphazardly ‘jumping on someone's chest' because that is your interpretation of how it should be done.

Whilst a broken rib is undesirable, for a casualty who is not breathing and assumed to have suffered cardiac arrest, it is largely irrelevant.   Following a call to 999 and locating a defibrillator (if there is one available), perfusion of oxygenated blood to the vital organs through effective CPR is in the best interest of the casualty.  It is certainly possible that a rib can be broken whilst performing CPR, even if trained and practiced to the best standards.   A broken rib is not a priority of a casualty in this situation.  Because of these two factors it is unlikely that a claim would be brought against you.

In today's litigious society, there can be a reluctance to help out in emergency situations. Fear of liability for any mistake can paralyze even the most helpful Good Samaritan.

The truth is that there are laws to protect the general public from liability during rescues or rescue attempts. Good Samaritan laws are meant to protect those who come to the aid of others for no other reason than kindness. Good Samaritan laws only help if the rescuer (or would-be rescuer) is acting without any expectation of reward. In other words, if you are getting paid to rescue then you aren't a Good Samaritan. Paid rescuers are expected to do their jobs correctly and can be held accountable for mistakes.

The best way to protect yourself from possible liability when helping others is to always act on behalf of the victim. That may sound obvious, but if your motivation is to be a hero and not to help out a fellow human, then you risk making the types of mistakes that are not covered by Good Samaritan laws.

Here are some good tips for staying out of court:

• Take a CPR and first aid class

• Follow your training

• Use common sense

• Don't do anything you're not trained to do

• Get professional help for the victim

• Do not accept gifts or rewards

Following these tips might help you stay out of bad situations even as you help others get out of theirs.

Thank you for taking the time to consider learning the skills, which can quite literally save somebody’s life. First Aid does not need to be something special that only a few know, it should be simple and everyday for everyone.

 

Best of luck in your plans.

Seamus