When considering the life-saving nature of CPR, many people wonder, “Can you get sued for giving CPR?” No matter your profession, you always want to act responsibly and ethically when you encounter an emergency situation. And while being prepared with CPR training in advance is a great place to start, what happens after the emergency passes?
For some bystanders, the risk of litigation outweighs the potential risks of not performing CPR. For others, the fear of facing legal consequences should something go wrong holds them back from stepping in to save a stranger’s life.
If you’re wondering, “can you get sued for giving CPR?”, read on to learn more about what can happen if you perform (or don’t perform) CPR.
Understanding Legal Liability for Performing CPR
In today’s sue-first climate, it’s a scary thought that in trying to step in and save a life in a time of emergency, you could end up with a court summons for your efforts. That’s why there are legal protections in place for good samaritans.
All 50 states and the District of Columbia have some sort of Good Samaritan Act to protect bystanders who step in to provide aid in emergencies and to encourage laypeople to take action without fearing, “Can you get sued for giving CPR?” That said, there are a few fundamental guidelines that qualify someone as a good samaritan:
- The bystander acted in good faith
- He or she made reasonable decisions
- The victim was in imminent danger
- The victim did not object to their assistance
- The bystander did not purposely or knowingly injure the victim further
These guidelines can vary slightly by state; however, the focus across the board is to act in the victim’s best interest. For example, moving someone who clearly shouldn’t be moved and causing injury to them wouldn’t likely be protected under Good Samaritan laws. In that case, “Can you get sued for giving CPR?” might be a valid concern.
Medical Professionals & Rendering Aid
In 2013, a nurse at an assisted-living facility made national news when she decided not to render aid to a client in distress due to a facility policy. This facility had no expectation that their staff be CPR trained and as a result, had a policy not to initiate CPR.
Cases like this illustrate the confusion around the protections for medical professionals on and off the job. While on the job, they’re expected to uphold best practices and not cause harm. But are the same expectations in place once health care workers clock out? As a medical professional, can you get sued for giving CPR — or for choosing not to?
In many states, once a doctor, nurse, paramedic, or other medically trained professional clocks out and is off duty, they become a layperson from a legal perspective. This allows them to act in good faith — but doesn’t obligate them — to step in and provide CPR in an emergency.
As previously mentioned, each state has very specific language on the protections for medically trained professionals, so you should review your area’s guidance on the topic if you’re wondering, “Can you get sued for giving CPR — or more importantly, can you get sued for not giving CPR?”
Can You Get Sued for Giving CPR Without a Certification?
One myth around the question, “Can you get sued for giving CPR?” is the idea that certification is the only way to have legal protections under Good Samaritan laws. While this myth has been spread far and wide, there’s no specific language that says that you MUST be certified to render aid in an emergency.
While CPR certification is certainly helpful and strongly recommended, it’s not required by law in all circumstances. However, it’s important to note that performing CPR improperly or inappropriately could lead to legal liability and even potentially worsen the condition of the victim. Being CPR certified can help you feel more confident in your abilities to perform it.
The Cost of Not Performing CPR
When someone collapses from cardiac arrest, the best life-saving measure is providing CPR as soon as possible. The effects of a lack of circulation and breathing begin within minutes, so a timely response is essential to save a life — in fact, it can double or triple a victim’s chance of survival, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Many states have very specific language that dictates your duty to provide aid. Aid could be as simple as calling 911 and speaking with a dispatcher or as involved as providing hands-on aid to a person in need. Be aware of your state’s statutes in regard to rendering aid so you don’t have to ask yourself, “Can you get sued for giving CPR?”
For example, Vermont specifically dictates that a person must give reasonable aid to someone who is experiencing an emergency. The statute outlines the state’s Good Samaritan protections, but it goes one step further to actually specify a fine not to exceed $100 if a person is found to have failed to render aid.
Making the Decision to Save a Life
The decision to provide aid in an emergency has a lot of variables. Identifying the type of care needed and assuring that you’re providing that care appropriately is a lot to think about. In the time of need, the last thing anyone should be asking is, “Can you get sued for giving CPR?”
With the protections afforded by Good Samaritan laws and the value of proper CPR training, you can be confident in providing care to help save a life without the looming shadow of legal repercussions.
At ProTrainings, we believe everyone should have the skills necessary to provide quality CPR in a victim’s time of need — and no one should have to worry, “Can you get sued for giving CPR?” It’s this belief that backs our efforts to provide free CPR training to anyone who wants to learn this life-saving skill.
Learn more about our group and remote-staff CPR certification programs.