"Good Sam" Laws?

  1. I recently moved to Nashville TN and had to get my CPR card renewed. During the class the instructor stated that all professional health care providers are obligated by law to stop and render medical aid and if they don't, they can be sued and lose their license. I have printed out the Tennessee Nurse Practice Act and can't find anything that even suggests that as an RN I am obligated to respond and help. I know in California IF I stop and help out I can't be sued for the outcome, hence the "Good Samaritan" law.

    This is yet another head scratching moment I have encountered since this move. There are no ratios in place and it seems that the larger hospitals use a lot of "LPN's" and they can hang IVPB's as well as IVP. On a happier note, we bought a lakehouse yesterday so I will be pretty busy cleaning it up and moving in, it's pretty nasty and has sat vacant for a while.

    Anyone out there have any feedback on the national Good Samaritan laws, ever rendered assistance and been sued? Thanks.
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  2. 16 Comments

  3. by   SCRN1
    I live in SC and the way they explained the Good Samaritan law is this...a layperson untrained in CPR cannot be sued for trying to help. However, a licensed person is only held responsible up to the amount of training that they have. I was also told that RNs are supposed to, by law, stop to assist unless the EMS or police are already at then scene and only then if it is safe to stop without putting yourself in danger. They told us they wouldn't advise having anything with RN on it like license plates, stickers, etc on your car or a stethescope hanging from your rearview mirror if you don't want to risk getting in trouble for not stopping. How are they gonna know you have a nursing license if you don't advertise?
  4. by   Haunted
    Quote from SCRN1
    I live in SC and the way they explained the Good Samaritan law is this...a layperson untrained in CPR cannot be sued for trying to help. However, a licensed person is only held responsible up to the amount of training that they have. I was also told that RNs are supposed to, by law, stop to assist unless the EMS or police are already at then scene and only then if it is safe to stop without putting yourself in danger. They told us they wouldn't advise having anything with RN on it like license plates, stickers, etc on your car or a stethescope hanging from your rearview mirror if you don't want to risk getting in trouble for not stopping. How are they gonna know you have a nursing license if you don't advertise?
    Kinda off topic but do they use RN's as medical examiners/coroners in SC (which is one of my favorite places on earth!!!).. I have been taking Forensic courses in California and heard of an internship available there for that.... good feedback on your Sate Good Sam expectations. I think the reason the law is so broad in California is that it is a very litigous State and nobody ever stopped to help out!
  5. by   oramar
    Just remember laws are different from state to state.
  6. by   TazziRN
    In CA you are obligated only if you identify yourself as a licensed healthcare worker. Once that happens you are also held to the standards of others with the same license as you and the Good Sam law does not apply. Now....if you, as a nurse, stop and try to help and perform an act in good faith that a nurse would not normally perform, but there is a bad outcome, you would be protected. I seem to recall that when I was told about that law, it was stressed that it was the same nationwide.
  7. by   kimmie518
    In the CPR course I took, I was told that "Good Samaritan Laws" pertain to protecting anyone that has stopped to help. If you stopped to help, and something goes wrong, you can' be sued. I dont know anything about you having to stop if you are a licensed professional or you can loose your license.
  8. by   Katnip
    I don't know how anybody would know if you were a licensed professional if you don't stop.

    I do know, in this region, at least that if you are a licensed professional and do stop to render aid you are held to the level of your license and can be sued.

    I know a doc who was sued for rendering aid on the roadside because the man ended up with a raspy voice. Would have died if he hadn't had the doc's help, but I guess he'd rather be dead than hoarse.
  9. by   RunningWithScissors
    I attended a lecture by one of the well-known professional liability groups a few years ago.

    They said that even wearing scrubs in public identifies you as a nurse, and implies a nurse/patient relationship if anything should occur in your presence, and you would be held to the standards of nursing practice. (like if you walk away, you could be charged with abandonment, even if you didn't walk up to the person and offer help).

    Also, it is WRONG that the Good Sam act keeps you from getting sued. You CAN be sued in ANY instance......the person suing just wouldn't win IF you are a lay person....if a professional, you would have to defend yourself and show that you acted to the standards and practices of your profession.

    You still have to shell out the expenses of defending yourself.

    They recommended never to stop and render aid yourself, just call 911.
  10. by   Medic/Nurse
    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!



    Last edit by Medic/Nurse on Feb 3, '07
  11. by   kukukajoo
    I am in NH. The Good Sam acts vary slightly in every state. Here in NH we are not required to stop, but surrounding states you are obligated by law to stop and assist. You are suuposed to do everything in your scope of practice or training but do not perform other acts you are not trained to do- ie- start a trach if you are not a doctor.

    BUT if you have say an RN car tag or sticker, then you MUST stop in many states around here. Unclear of NH's law on this but I do know MA is a yes on this aspect.

    You can't be held liable as long as you stay within your scope of practice.

    Also NEVER NEVER accept payment, a gift, gift cert, even flowers or cookies for helping at any scene. If you do accept a gift, then you technically were paid for your nursing services and then CAN be sued as you are no longer protected under the Good Sam Act!! it's A little loophole many attorneys are aware of but Good Sam's arent- they will do this just so they have someone to sue. So even the freshly baked browines they try to bring you later on- DON'T EAT 'EM! I know it sounds freaky but remember there are ambulance chasers out there.

    Not sure what you would look under to find laws specific to your state.
    Last edit by kukukajoo on Feb 5, '07
  12. by   kukukajoo
    THE GOOD SAM ACT DOES PROTECT ONES WHO STOP AND HELP. Although they can still sue, it is less likely to be a success and most likely will end in a default judgement.

    Here is the law for TN here: http://www.nashfire.org/aed/tennesse...aritan_act.htm

    Here is where you can go for an overview of the laws:
    http://medi-smart.com/gslaw.htm

    For exact state statues, I would go to your specific state and inquire. If you need information on any state you can do an internet search.

    Furthermore, as a compassionate human being, if I stopped there is NO WAY that I could NOT help in any manner in accordance with my abilities and training. I know I could not live with myself if someone died because I was just standing there.
    Last edit by kukukajoo on Feb 5, '07
  13. by   Medic/Nurse
    hey there, kukukajoo - editing is not gonna happen! good luck with nursing school, though! although, i do not profess to be an expert - i'm pretty well versed in many aspects of legalities of nursing practice/standards of care/liability issues. i have a great deal of experience in these areas - not that i'm always right, but i do make every effort to be correct.
    careful with lay person standards and where you get your "legal" information. also, use "internet" searches with caution. heck, even be a bit wary of posters on this forum.

    i maintain that you can be sued. the good samaritan law may limit a plaintiff's ability to recover damages from you if you were not negligent - but it may not prevent you from being sued.

    and i believe that most attorneys will make every attempt to keep the so-called "good samaritan" in the lawsuit - and let the jury decide if the "good samaritan" acted in a prudent manner. this matter would most likely be a material fact in personal injury litigation! (and juries generally get to decide material fact questions) read: you will still have to defend your practice - actions and inactions!

    and, as to the cookie and brownie issue - wow, pretty slick lawyers up there in nh! yum. yum. ahhhhh! don't eat the cookies! at my station they would be very well digested in short order; even before implications of baked good consumption as it relates to payment of services could even be considered!

    anyway, i respect your decision to act. my post just details that everyone has a right to decide. i question that any "duty to act" law that requires all nurses to stop an uncontrolled scenes and get out of their vehicle, descend over a hill to a wrecked vehicle and render aid to the full extent of their practice standards - with no personal protective equipment, no help and no choice - would be upheld if tested. if this law really worked as you indicate - i'd have to remove the masses at some accident scenes!

    i think the tennessee law reference is vague and was an attempt to "create a safety net" as it relates to cpr and then the introduction of aed's into public arenas. i.e. a "law" that will allow someone to hook up the aed and if done correctly keeps them from that pesky little liability for introducing electricity into an otherwise dead person. not the same thing as willy-nilly rendering aid to live patients that are often complexly critically ill and injured.

    practice safe!
    Last edit by Medic/Nurse on Feb 3, '07
  14. by   flashpoint
    The Good Samaritin Law does protect you to an extent, but it does not mean that you will always walk away without a scratch if you are sued. Even if the court system did determine that you did everything 100% right, simply the fact that someone filed a lawsuit against you can be quite damaging. If in the "heat of the moment" you were to overlook something in a patient you were treating, on ecould logically argue that as an RN (LPN, paramedic, or whatever), that you should have caught the problem and been able to correct it. I am pretty cautious about stopping for accidents, helping my neighbors, and giving advice to people in the grocery store. Sure the Good Samaritin Law will help if I mess up, but again, it will not allow me to just walk away if someone decides to sue.

    If I am in my fire district, I will stop, call 911, and render aid. My rescue squad is going to be paged out anyway, so once I determine the scene is safe, I will do what I can within my scope of practice...the rest of my team usually arrives within 4-5 minutes. If I am out of my district, I stop and call 911, and if the scene is safe, I'll render LIFE saving treatment, but I don't start bandaging wounds or things like that. I'm a little more willing to practice if there are life threats than if there are not. I don't think that makes me a bad person or less compassionate that anyone else. I don't have anything on my vehicle that indicates I have any medical training at all.

    Kukukajoo...your post seems a bit upity to me. NREMT-P / RN's post is not inaccurate. If someone ordered someone else to edit their post everything there was something they didn't like or something they felt was inaccurate, nothing would ever be discussed...we would all be too busy editing!

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