If CPR Causes Broken Ribs, Can You Sue?

Law Office of John Hamilton

You’re on the floor, not breathing. You are dead.

Suddenly, a Good Samaritan runs up and performs CPR. Sure, he breaks a couple ribs, but you start breathing again. Paramedics arrive and rush you to the hospital.

It’s a fact that broken ribs can result from CPR. If this occurs, can you sue to recover for your injuries?

CPR and Broken Ribs

Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) breaks ribs. A study of Korean patients showed that, of 71 patients revived by CPR, 22 had at least one broken rib, and 14 had more than one. That’s a substantial percentage of CPR patients who suffered a broken rib!

CPR requires a rescuer to put the heels of his hands on a person’s chest and push down at least 2 inches 30 times per round of chest compression, or about 100 times per minute. According to Dr. Michael Sayre, a spokesperson from the American Heart Association, broken ribs are to be expected when doing CPR.

Good Samaritan Laws

So, can you sue? Sure! I don’t know why you would, but nothing is stopping you from filing a lawsuit against the guy who saved your life. Whether you’ll win though is questionable.

All 50 states have Good Samaritan Laws. While the law may vary slightly from state to state, the general provisions are similar. For example, California’s Good Samaritan Law states:

“No person who in good faith, and not for compensation, renders emergency medical or nonmedical care at the scene of an emergency shall be liable for any civil damages resulting from any act or omission.”

A few states’ Good Samaritan laws are narrower and only apply to medical professionals and not to volunteers. Many states do exclude grossly negligent or willful or wanton misconduct from Good Samaritan protections.

Broken Ribs = Gross Negligence?

To win your lawsuit against the person who broke your ribs, you would have to prove that gross negligence occurred.

Since you’re alive to sue after requiring CPR, that rescuer must have done something right. Broken ribs are an inevitable part of CPR. It would be extremely hard to show that the broken ribs were caused by gross negligence if you’re alive to complain about it

However, this doesn’t mean that you can never sue if you’re injured by medical personnel. If your doctor acted negligently and caused you more injury, consult with an experienced personal injury attorney for help.

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