Questions, Questions, Questions!

I understand that this “emergency medicine stuff” is complicated and one of the most important part of my classes is where I answer questions from my students. Perhaps one of the most common questions is: what happens if I see somebody having a heart attack and try to help and they still die - will I get sued? This is a great question and one that applies to many situations that all of us encounter out there in our “dangerous world.” 

So, you are driving down the street when the car in front of you veers off the road and hits a tree - what do you do? Will you get sued if you try to help and instead end up hurting the person?  The answer is generally, “no."

Here in North Carolina, General Statute 20-166, (d), states: "Any person who renders first aid or emergency assistance at the scene of a motor vehicle crash on any street or highway to any person injured as a result of the accident, shall not be liable in civil damages for any acts or omissions relating to the services rendered, unless the acts or omissions amount to wanton conduct or intentional wrongdoing." 

In my emergency medical care classes, I teach the Rule of Three: 1 - Contact EMS as soon as possible, 2 - Be safe and, 3 - only act within the limits of your training. Does this mean you will never face legal action? Unfortunately, no. In our modern world where it seems as though everyone wants a “big payday” (without having to work for it), you could face a lawsuit for not cleaning up after your dog. Knowing that doing something is almost always better than doing nothing, I advise my students to follow the Rule of Three and act accordingly.