When you see someone who is injured, unconscious, or otherwise in need of medical attention, it is only natural to want to help them. Understanding first aid will help you with the skills needed to provide assistance. However, it’s also important to know if you could be prosecuted for performing some kind of first aid.
Good Samaritan Laws Offer Protection
The good news is that there are Good Samaritan laws that can protect you for doing the right thing. If someone is choking in a restaurant, you can choose to help them. The laws protect someone who is helping voluntarily without any expectation of a reward.
It’s important to understand that the laws can vary from state to state. The laws may or may not protect you depending on whether you have been trained or not. For example, the Good Samaritan laws will only protect you in Alabama if you are either a trained rescuer or an employee of the public education system. Meanwhile, in Vermont, you can be fined for not helping someone, whether you have been trained or not.
Don’t Try Anything You Don’t Know How to Do
It’s important that you don’t try to do anything that you don’t know how to do. Especially if you have never gone through a formal first aid course, you might not know how to administer the Heimlich maneuver. If you don’t administer it properly, you could crack ribs, leaving yourself vulnerable to being sued.
You will not be protected by Good Samaritan laws if you try to go outside your area of training. Doing so could get you justifiably sued, especially if your actions cause the patient’s death. In general, going outside your area of training can be worse than if the person were left alone until medical professionals arrived on the scene. This means that the best thing to do is to only agree to step in and help if you have some kind of training for CPR, first aid, or some other life-saving methodology.
What About Do Not Resuscitate (DNR) Orders?
Some people have a DNR, which means that they do not want to be resuscitated. If you find someone who is terminally ill, seriously injured, or even in a coma who needs help, you have to think about whether they have a DNR or not. Often, if you do not know that they have a DNR, you wouldn’t be held liable for not following a DNR. Do your due diligence to see if they have one on their person if you suspect that they might.
You should always be sure that you know what you’re doing when you come to someone’s aid. It’s great that you want to help people who are in need, but you also want to make sure that you protect yourself. By being trained on life-saving actions, you are less likely to be prosecuted if you hurt someone in the process of saving their life.