first, there is no law in any state that can prevent you from being sued. now, do not go getting all paranoid - being sued and a plaintiff being successful are very different animals. but, i admit - that being sued (even if no fault of mine) would be bad.
also, acting on your own will guarantee that you will bear the burden of defense - and that could be substantial! even if the plaintiff is not successful against you, you may still have lots to lose!
if there is no duty to act (check your state laws - duty is usually in a paid or professionally volunteered capacity) i surveyed this matter on a national level several years ago - but, things change. however, i'm not aware of any state that mandates that a nurse stop and render care to any person/accident or otherwise. exception: 1) if you are involved in the accident - not merely to happen upon it - the "rules" get a little fuzzy. 2) also, if you witness the accident there may be some legal obligation to stay and give a witness report to the police - but, i doubt that you have a duty to provide healthcare.
now, lets say you do decide to stop and help.
you will be held to a standard of care that is accepted by your level of license or state certification.
i.e. you are a rn and you stop at the scene of an auto accident, you adrenaline is pumping! you rush over to the scene and find 2 occupants that are not conscious and they are entrapped. you notice that they are breathing, no obvious external bleeding. another bystander informs you that he called 911 and fire/ems are enroute with a 2-3 minute arrival. what do you do?
[color="darkslategray"]a. just monitor the victims and wait beside the car.
b. drag them out, and quick! everyone knows that wrecked cars catch on fire.
c. get to a safe place and wait on the arrival of help-then offer assistance.
your best answer here is "c".
rule 1 - this accident does not get to claim any other victims. meaning the scene has to be safe. now, unless you have the skill/training to determine scene safety and hazards - you risk your life and can quickly contribute to the problem - not the solution. the hazards are almost too numerous to list - but a good number of them can make you a victim too. choose safety!
"a" is bad just because of the safety issue.
"b" is bad for a number of reasons. first, i suspect that true malpractice will exist here because, although well intentioned, dragging victims out can be risky. no fire. cars rarely catch on fire post accident - yes, there is some smoke and strange smells, but fire is really quite rare! dragging them to "safety" may damage their spines, you have no training/equipment to immobilize them prior to removal - and now both are paralyzed. did you do the right thing? i believe that any lawyer would be able to, at a minimum, make a jury believe that you at least contributed to the patients demise. the lawyer will look at your educational preparation and experience. questions like: "did you ever learn how to remove a victim from a vehicle with a traumatic injury?" "how many victims have you removed from vehicles with traumatic injuries?" "what equipment did you have?" anyway, my point is this: if you choose to stop, further choose your actions wisely.
[font="arial black"](now, don't everyone go all thumper on me - i know that there could be any # of variables, so for the sake of simplicity - i didn't go there! just making a broad point! )
now, as to the cpr point. the aha has discouraged instruction in the "you're covered, the good samaritan laws will protect you" and the "you will lose your license if you don't help". unless your cpr class was taught by an attorney or they gave you copies of state laws that address the issue - i'd just forget about it.
[font="verdana"]everyone has to act in a manner that they are comfortable with --- i just want all to think about the consequences. the difference between being the hero or the (scape)goat is fairly narrow! just be careful.
having spend years in the pre-hospital environment, it is an entirely different area to practice in as compared to the hospital. now, add your adrenaline to the uncontrolled nature of "helping" outside the practice environment that you are familiar and it is risky - not just from a legal standpoint.
fyi - i have nothing on my vehicle (nor do i wear anything on my person) that identifies me as a nurse/paramedic/firefighter/disaster service provider or such. so unless unless you know me, how would anyone know what i do? they wouldn't. there are some that are really into plastering it everywhere - but that is not what is right for me. not just for liability reasons either!
do i stop? as a rule. no. if there is no one at the scene, in what i know to be a rural area, and it looks bad, then yes i stop and then i call 911 with details - including exact location, gps, vehicles involved and plate registrations and request needed help. likewise, if it looks bad and i know the emergency provider and they appear overwhelmed i may stop. otherwise, i just report the accident, if necessary, or just pass on by. my legal duty to act is quite limited - a moral/ethical duty is a different thing! and i have no absolute on that - any situation may test my moral/ethical duty at any time. but, i'm ready!
as to cpr - i'd generally do what is necessary. i.e. - i am at a church dinner and someone chokes - i'd treat fully and then be prepared to fully explain my actions. or my neighbor calls and she found her husband is not breathing - sure i'd go assess and help if possible. but, lets say the "victim" was beat up in a bar fight, is lying unresponsive and very bloody - and their friend grabs me as i leave a nearby restaurant with a "help, my buddy is hurt!" - then, doubtful (without a safe scene and protective equipment) as i will not allow myself to become a victim. rule #1. :d
[font="verdana"]point: be careful out there. think about what you are comfortable with - as it applies to acting in an emergency. talk over possibilities with your fellow nurses in scenarios of "what if?". learn from each other! ask your bon's legal counsel for an opinion (written) on duty to act if it is unclear. check with your legislative body's representative on the applicability of good samaritan laws in your state. be ready! be informed!
[font="fixedsys"]but the #1 thing to remember is to be safe! your life depends on it!