Can I be held liable for using an AED?

One concern many members of the public have surrounding the use of AEDs is the possibility of being blamed if something goes wrong. It’s a completely valid thought for many members of the public who don’t feel fully confident using a medical device and rarely find themselves in stressful emergency situations with the opportunity to save a life.

As the life-saving abilities of AEDs depend on public confidence in using them, it’s crucial to be able to answer questions such as these and provide peace of mind for anyone who may hesitate to use one.

The simple answer to ‘can I be held liable for using an AED?’ is no – but here we explain some important reasons why along with some of the potential risks associated with defibrillation.

Every second counts when faced with SCA

The life-saving abilities of AEDs rely on a timely response – without rapid deployment, the possibility of SCA survival diminishes. If a person suffering SCA is shocked within 60 seconds, their chances of survival can be as high as 90% – but for every minute that follows this drops by 10%. This is one major reason why dispelling AED myths and instilling public confidence in using defibrillators is so important.

There are a number of reasons for hesitation when deploying an AED – including anxiety over ease of use and panic over when and how to use one. Concerns regarding causing injury are common, so if you’ve ever wondered whether you could be held liable legally using an AED, you’re not alone.

AEDs are safe and reliable to use

AEDs are designed to be fool-proof and easy to use for anybody – that’s why their functionality and method of deployment differs compared to similar medical devices used by professionals such as doctors and emergency responders. When using a reliable, good quality, well-maintained AED you can be sure that you won’t make a mistake.

AED stands for ‘Automated External Defibrillator’. The ‘automatic’ part refers to intelligent technology within the device which detects the patient’s heartrate and makes crucial decisions on your behalf. The AED will also tell you exactly what to do and when, so it’s impossible to make a mistake. Due to the state-of-the-art heartrate sensors within AEDs it’s not possible to deliver a shock unless one is needed – further preventing the possibility of injury.

Injuries from AEDs vs CPR

Interestingly AEDs also offer a safer and lower-risk alternative or accompaniment to CPR, even though many people hesitate to use an AED compared with attempting CPR. CPR can result in broken ribs due to the force the person administering CPR often needs to use, especially in elderly people who can be more frail. Injuries can also occur when the patient needs to be moved to free up the airway.

In most cases manual CPR should be used alongside an AED (the AED itself will prompt you to do so if needed, along with supporting emergency services).

Can I be sued if I use an AED?

It’s highly unlikely that you’d be a victim of successful legal action if you used an AED in good faith on somebody suffering SCA. To date there have been no known judgements against someone who used an AED to save a person’s life. This is likely because there is plenty of protection from civil liability for individuals who need to use an AED in the event of an SCA occurring.

People who use AEDs are covered by ‘Good Samaritan’ laws that protect users who attempt to save a person’s life, acting in the best interests of the casualty.

Even in the highly unlikely event that a civil case is brought against you for negligence, the court is compelled to judge your actions against those of a ‘reasonable person of the same standing’. This means your actions will be compared with those of someone of the same age with the same experience level – for example, if you’re a person with absolutely no first aid training your response won’t be measured against that of a medical professional.

Understanding the SARAH Act

Although there are many different mechanisms in various areas of law that protect people who act with good intentions when trying to save someone’s life, the SARAH Act (introduced in 2015) provides an additional safety net and peace of mind for those using AEDs.

The SARAH Act (short for Social Action, Heroism and Responsibility Act) asks a judge to consider whether someone was trying to save the life of a victim, whether their approach to safety was responsible and whether they were behaving heroically by attempting to rescue someone in danger, protecting those who are trying to do their best when faced with a difficult emergency situation.

Can my business be held liable for AED use?

The law is slightly different surrounding corporate negligence – as above, no individual person using an AED can be sued, but your company could be held liable if you don’t provide proper upkeep of equipment resulting in an accident, injury or ineffectiveness. Laws and regulations including the SARAH Act detailed above can’t prevent you from being found to be criminally liable or negligent.

In many industries companies are legally required to have aa qualified first aider on site at all times. If you have an AED on site you must follow all legal requirements for its upkeep, including maintenance of the advice recommended by the manufacturer and appropriate documentation proving that services are up to date.

Bottom line – can I be held liable for using an AED?

As a rule of thumb, the consequences of inaction are much more severe than the potential issues associated with taking action – especially for businesses and establishments. If you don’t have an AED at your premises or fail to act, you face a much higher chance of having a civil case brought against you.

For friendly expert advice on selecting and purchasing AEDs, contact our team today.


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