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To Help or Not to Help? New PA Law Would Protect Those Who Help

Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers Discuss Proposed Bill that would Protect Bystanders Who Provide Medical Aid

As a bystander, it is difficult to know whether to help a stranger who is having a heart attack or stroke in the U.S. today. It is also tough for victims of medical emergencies who are helped or saved by bystanders to know how to manage situations in which they sustain additional injuries because of poor delivery of life-saving techniques. A bill recently proposed in Pennsylvania addresses these issues and, if passed, would protect those bystanders who choose to give medical aid during emergencies, even if they further injure the recipients.

Proposed Bill

Earlier this year, a bill was introduced in the Pennsylvania Senate to provide civil immunity for Good Samaritans who give cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or use automated external defibrillators (AEDs) in attempts to save people’s lives during emergencies. Current law requires a person to be certified in delivering CPR or using AEDs before helping someone experiencing a heart attack or stroke. The Pennsylvania Senate unanimously passed SB351 in May, though the measure has been tabled in the legislature’s sister chamber.

Legal Considerations

The purpose of the bill is to encourage Good Samaritans, or people trying to save lives in good faith, to step in and help during emergency situations. Existing law allows victims to sue bystanders who choose to help them, which causes many people to fear administering CPR or using AEDs because of potential legal and financial consequences. Lawmakers generally believe that it is good public policy to give people performing good deeds immunity from civil liability instead of punishing them later for lack of training or because the recipient was further injured.

Impact on Victims

If the bill is enacted, more people will likely be willing to help heart attack or stroke victims during emergencies. While this is good news for victims and increases their chances of survival, the bill removes the ability of victims to sue those Good Samaritans who act in bad faith, or who perform incorrect CPR or other procedures without their permission or knowledge. In addition, if victims are further injured during the emergency, they will not be able to recover damages from civil lawsuits against bystanders to pay for their additional medical expenses.

To Help?

According to one cardiologist in Pennsylvania, victims of heart attacks have around a 15 percent chance of surviving an episode, so any intervention to improve these chances is a good thing. To help or not to help in these situations, however, is the question currently being addressed by the Pennsylvania General Assembly in the proposed bill to protect Good Samaritans. This is a difficult question to answer for both bystanders and victims because of the potential losses on both sides, but it is an important question to discuss and resolve, so people know how to act during emergencies.

McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC:  Experienced Philadelphia Personal Injury Lawyers

If you or a loved one has recently received medical attention from a bystander during a medical emergency and suffered further injury as a result of the assistance, contact a Philadelphia personal injury lawyer today at McCann Dillon Jaffe & Lamb, LLC to discuss your case. Unless the state legislature passes a strict version of the proposed bill, you may be able to file a civil lawsuit to help cover the additional medical costs, lost wages and pain and suffering related to injuries sustained during CPR or AED administration. Contact us at 215-569-8488 or contact us online.