Legal Issues in First Aid: The Law Is (Mostly) On Your Side
It's a valid concern to ask what you might be legally liable for if you give first aid. Generally, as long as you act reasonably and prudently when you give first aid, you don't need to worry about being sued. In fact, most regions explicitly encourage bystanders to give first with called Good Samaritan laws.
The law protects citizens and medical professionals who act in good faith to give emergency assistance to ill or injured persons at the scene of an emergency. According to experts in the field of first aid, the following are reasonable actions:
- If the person is conscious, you must always get permission before helping.
- Move the person only if the person's life is endangered.
- Call EMS for professional help.
- Only do what you have been trained to do in a real first aid course offered by a authorized agency.
- Check the person's airway, breathing, and circulation before providing further care.
- Continue to care for any life-threatening conditions until EMS personnel arrive.
- If the person requiring first aid is a child, seek permission from a parent if they are in the immediate area. If the parent is not available, you do not need the child's permission to help.
If there is ever a concern the courts will examine whether you did the best you could under the circumstances. Proving negligence will require the plaintiff to prove that you did something grossly wrong, which is hard to do. However, if you start administering first aid, you must continue until EMS arrives. Stopping first aid once you've started can get you in trouble.