First Aid & Liability
Michael F. Bowman (mfbowman@CAP.GWU.EDU)
Tue, 4 Oct 1994 23:45:02 -0400
About a dozen or so postings have hit on First Aid and liability issues in
the past few days. I've enjoyed the discussion and have learned much from
the trained and certified folks that have commented.
I offered some general observations on the legal issues involved a little
while back. Without repeating the enitre long posting, I'd like to just
summarize a couple of points that might be helpful here in this discussion.
1. Each State's Good Samaratan laws are different. Don't assume that
what is true in one State is true in another. It isn't. New Jersey for
example, is much more protective than Maryland. Maryland's statute only
protects certified health care professionals not first-aiders. The range
of protection varies widely.
2. To better understand your State's laws in this area, consult with the
lawyer serving as General Counsel on your Council's Executive Board or the
lawyer who has volunteered to act in an "of Counsel" role to the Council.
He/she can tell you better what the local liability issues are like.
3. If your State does not completely protect "Good Samaratans" and most
don't, liability is always an issue. The question comes down to negligence.
4. If someone acts in a way contrary to their training (assuming it was
done correctly) they are most likely going to be found negligent.
5. If an instructor, Merit Badge Counselor or leader teaches first aid
without having the proper training or teaches the wrong procedures, he or
she may be found to have been negligent and also liable. As a former
Torts lawyer in private practice, you can bet that I wouldn't have stopped
with the first-aider in looking for a deep-pocket for recovery purposes.
That's how it works for real! Lawyers are going to look to see who can
pay and focus on whether that party was negligent. Most will not spend
much time on a youth where recovery is very questionable. So don't get
too complacent that you merely taught.
6. Use your resources. There are plenty of trained people out there who
can do a good job of teaching first aid. By the way the comments that the
ARC has changed emphasis are right. When I first was trained 25 years
ago, we learned all kinds of hands on stuff. Now the equivalent course
teaches people to call 911 for almost anything that is not immediately
7. If you don't have the training or qualifications to teach, you
shouldn't be teaching first aid. How do you know what the proper
procedures are? Its much better to get the Scouts in touch with the best
possible resource people - they'll learn a lot more too.
8. Some States have laws that may subject you to liability if you don't
render aid and are qualified to do so. Definitions of qualified vary from
being a health care professional to a trained first-aider. Inaction is
not necessarily a protection.
9. We must also remember that although the legal issues are important,
that it is much more important to do the right thing in helping a person,
when help is needed. Sometimes we are going to face situations where we
have the training and qualifications to know what to do. And we should do
it. But if the situation is not obvious, then you are probably not
qualified or trained to act and need to be making it a priority to get
help via 911. In many cases an EMT can be put on line almost at once to
ask questions and assess the situation. That person can help you know
whether to act and how.
10. Make sure your unit has a trained first-aider, if at all possible on
11. Get training yourself.
12. Fortunately, take comfort, there are many more instances of victims
being grateful for help than there are lawsuits. Its always a risk, but
most of the time good people don't go after "Good Samaratans" and most of
the time the teacher/trainer is never held liable.
13. Get the supplemental Troop Insurance policy to cover liability up to
the point where BSA's policy kicks-in.
14. Don't be afraid to ask questions on these isues.
15. Take steps to minimize your risk. Even when you win in a lawsuit, you
lose by paying the cost of your defense. Its a lot cheaper to get
training and to use qualified people for training and Merit Badges than it
is to fix a problem later on.
16. Remember too, that we need not to lose sight of the fact that we need
to be able to render help and assistance, when the situation calls for it.
Yours in Scouting, Michael F. Bowman, a/k/a Professor Beaver
Deputy District Commissioner Exploring, GW Dist., NCAC, BSA
Speaking only for myself, but with Scouting Spirit . . .
____ mfbowman@CAP.GWU.EDU ____
Terry Howerton Sakima Group, Inc. SCOUTER Magazine Kansas City