First Aid/Legal Liability
Good Samaritan Laws
|All rescuers should not be afraid of liability affecting them whilst performing their duties. In many cases, it is often best to provide care and to do so to the best of your ability without worry of legal implications.|
Good Samaritan laws in the United States and Canada are laws that reduce the liability to those who choose to aid others who are injured or ill, though it does not protect you from being sued, it just significantly reduces your liability. Ontario's Good Samaritan Act is one example of such legislation. They are intended to reduce bystanders' hesitation to assist, for fear of being prosecuted for unintentional injury or wrongful death. In other countries (as well as the Canadian province of Quebec), Good Samaritan laws describe a legal requirement for citizens to assist people in distress, unless doing so would put themselves in harm's way. Citizens are often required to, at minimum, call the local emergency number.
Check with your government for applicable legislation in your area. Typically, the Good Samaritan legislation does not cover an individual who exceeds their training level or scope of practice; nor would you be protected against gross negligence.
- Unless a caretaker relationship (such as a parent-child or doctor-patient relationship) exists prior to the illness or injury, or the "Good Samaritan" is responsible for the existence of the illness or injury, no person is required to give aid of any sort to a victim.
- Any first aid provided must not be in exchange for any reward or financial compensation. As a result, medical professionals are typically not protected by Good Samaritan laws when performing first aid in connection with their employment.
- If aid begins, the responder must not leave the scene until:
- It is necessary in order to call for needed medical assistance.
- Somebody of equal or higher ability can take over.
- Continuing to give aid is unsafe (this can be as simple as a lack of adequate protection against potential diseases, such as vinyl, latex, or nitrile gloves to protect against blood-borne pathogens) — a responder can never be forced to put himself or herself in danger to aid another person.
- The responder is not legally liable for the death, disfigurement or disability of the victim as long as the responder acted rationally, in good faith, and in accordance with their level of training.
Negligence requires three elements to be proven:
- Duty of care
- You had a duty to care for the victim
- Often, if you begin first aid, then a duty of care exists
- Standard of care was not met
- You didn't perform first aid properly, or went beyond your level of training
- The standard of care is what a reasonable person with similar training would do in similar circumstances
- The damages caused were your fault
- Causation requires proof that your act or omission caused the damages
Assisting with Medications
Assisting with medications can be a vital component during a medical emergency. Assisting with medications includes helping the victim locate the medication, taking the cap off of a bottle of pills, and reading the label to ensure that the victim is going to take the right medication. Assisting, however, does not imply actually administering the medication—this is an advanced level skill, which, if done, may open you up to liability from going beyond your level of training. However, by assisting, you may be able to help the victim find their medications more quickly, resulting in an improved outcome.