We are all raised to help those in need, but in dangerous or confusing situations, things can sometimes go awry. Due to concerns about litigiousness, people can be cautious in their interactions with the general public. When it comes to first aid, in particular, people are wary of getting involved.
After all, who wants to be sued for cracking a rib while performing CPR? The good news is, the state of Tennessee has protections in place for those who are, in good faith, attempting to provide emergency assistance.
Tennessee's Good Samaritan Law protects any person who provides emergency rescue or first aid from liability if they meet certain conditions:
- The caregiver must be acting in good faith. This means he or she must intend to provide aid to the person in distress without any motive other than saving the person's life or keeping them from further bodily harm.
- Any emergency care provided must be done on a voluntary basis. That is, the caregiver must not have a legal obligation to provide assistance nor can he or she be paid for providing such assistance. Therefore, a nurse on duty who performs CPR at the hospital is not protected under this law. A nurse who stops at the scene of a car accident and provides first aid, is protected.
- The situation must be a potential life-threatening emergency and the care provided must be necessary to treat the emergency. CPR, the Heimlich maneuver, rescue breathing, and stopping blood loss are all examples of potentially life-saving treatments.
- The person providing aid must not commit gross negligence. To commit gross negligence, the caregiver would have to deliberately act in such a way that could cause further harm. An example of this would be an untrained individual claiming to be trained in first aid--not only might he be doing more harm than good, but he might also be preventing a trained person from assisting.
Simply put, if you are acting with pure intentions, you are protected from liability when trying to save a life. This article is not intended to be legal advice but you can read the entirety of Tennessee's Good Samaritan Act here.
Updated by Holly Whitfield, January 2018