Posted on 13 Jan 2012
The call by the Daily Telegraph for all high school students to be taught CPR is an important and timely initiative.
Too many victims die or suffer serious injuries because not enough people know how to resuscitate someone who gets into trouble in the water.
Over the past few years I have been asked a number of times about the law as it relates to people coming to the assistance of others.
The laws that protect people who offer help, and in many cases risk their own lives, are generally referred to as the good Samaritan laws and are part of the NSW Civil Liability Act.
Most of us would be aware of the parable told by Jesus of the good Samaritan. It tells the story of a traveler who is beaten, robbed, and left half dead along the road. First a priest and then a Levite come by, but both avoid the man.
Finally, a Samaritan comes by and helps the injured man; he takes him to an inn and pays for the inn keeper to look after the distressed man.
However in these modern times a major concern is that someone going to the assistance of another might be sued as a result of the help they give.
Let’s be very clear, the law in NSW states very specifically that a good Samaritan cannot be sued while trying to help someone who is injured or at risk of being injured. These protections are spelt out in the Section 57 of the Civil Liability Act.
There are however exceptions if the good Samaritan is drunk or under the influence of drugs.
Good Samaritan laws are designed to protect people who help injured, ill or other people in peril. The laws are intended to reduce the hesitancy of on lookers to assist, for fear of being sued for unintentional injury or wrongful death.
In the case of people coming to the assistance of someone who is drowning, if the good Samaritan is sober, has a basic understanding of what they are doing and exercise reasonable care as they administer CPR then they will be protected by the law.
We all have a moral responsibility to help others who are in trouble.
A young person who understands CPR should have no fear of getting sued if they use their CPR skills to save another life.
Slater and Gordon