AED Laws and Liability for Businesses

According to the American Heart Association, 605,000 new heart attacks occur every year in the United States. Additionally, the Sudden Cardiac Arrest Foundation states that almost 90% of those who experience cardiac arrest outside of hospital settings do not survive. For those who do, it’s likely they received prompt medical intervention.

An automated external defibrillator, or an AED, can save a life if it’s used within the first few minutes of a heart attack. These statistics indicate that it’s crucial to learn about these devices, as well as local AED laws and regulations, for the health and safety of yourself as well as others.

If you are confused or troubled about a recent event involving an AED device, call our attorneys as soon as possible to discuss your potential case. Consider the following information surrounding the use of these lifesaving devices and familiarize yourself with South Carolina regulations and requirements.

Public Places, AED Laws, and AED Injury Liability

You may see AEDs in schools, community areas, and public gyms. AED devices are designed for the general public to use: You don’t have to have a medical degree or experience as an EMT to save someone’s life with one.

However, AEDs, like other devices, can malfunction, and unfortunately, they may not always save someone’s life.

It’s important not to let this uncertainty stop people from using an AED — especially when it’s medically recommended to use one in the event of a heart attack.

Whose fault is it if the AED doesn’t save a life? Legally, it may look like an open-and-shut case. However, there are several factors to consider when it comes to determining fault or liability in a case involving an AED. Consider these two scenarios that may factor into AED laws:

The user wasn’t AED-trained

If a passerby decides to use an AED to help save someone’s life, they may be trained to do so — or they may just be trying to help in a dire situation. If the person experiencing the heart attack does not survive, it may be tempting for the victim’s friends or family members to blame the person trying to help.

However, there are numerous other factors at play when it comes to heart attacks and AEDs. The severity of the heart attack, the person’s age and other health conditions, and the quality of the equipment being used all come into play. Fortunately, certain state laws can protect the user in this situation if the AED does not work correctly or the user is not specifically trained for the situation at hand.

The AED broke or malfunctioned

Occasionally, an AED device can malfunction or harbor an unknown product defect. For this reason, it’s crucial to maintain an AED device in accordance with state laws. This could mean regular checks and tests, replacing old or outdated devices, or other guidelines that keep the AED functioning in top condition.

Reducing Liability Risks

There are several ways to reduce liability surrounding the use of AEDs in community spaces. Consider these safeguards that a business, school, or other public area may put into place to protect those who use an AED (or those who may experience a heart attack):

  • Good Samaritan laws: Alert people who work (or study) in the building to Good Samaritan laws, which are tied to AED laws to offer protection from liability in the case of helping in an accident.
  • Proper training: Hesitance to help someone in the event of a cardiac episode can contribute to a lack of action, which could spell trouble for the person experiencing a heart attack. It’s a good idea to ensure that the occupants of the building understand how and when to use the AED device.
  • Visible devices: It’s crucial that an AED device is located where users can find it, quickly access it, and provide help in a timely manner. This doesn’t mean that it should always be placed in the same spot: An AED for business locations may be located in a very different place than the one meant for a public park, church, or school.

While there is no perfect plan or system that will reduce all risks, thinking ahead is important. Taking the location and training of staff into account, as well as having a good understanding of local laws, can reduce liability in life-threatening situations.

AED Locations

It’s important that AED devices are clearly labeled and placed in a prominent area in case of an emergency. Professionals recommend that AEDs be located in the following places, though it may vary from state to state:

  • Public gyms
  • Public and private schools
  • Office buildings
  • Churches
  • Community centers and libraries
  • Outdoor locations such as parks and playgrounds

While there isn’t currently a federal law requiring AED placement in public spaces, individual states may have different requirements for AED placement. Many states opt to install them in highly visible areas to maximize their effectiveness.

South Carolina State AED Laws and Requirements

Since 1999, South Carolina has put into action several AED laws and requirements that govern the use of these devices. The Good Samaritan laws protect laypeople who may use an AED, while training laws and regulations safeguard those at high schools and sporting events.

AED laws

South Carolina maintains “Good Samaritan” laws, which protect a passerby who administers medical assistance to someone who needs help. Unless the passerby acts with gross negligence or tries to harm the injured person, this law protects them from being legally punished if the encounter goes wrong. This set of laws, however, does not protect a business or individual who is supposed to have an AED on the property but does not.

You may also be wondering if refusing to acquire an AED will protect a company or public place from liability — and the answer is no, it will not. According to S.C. Code Ann. § 44-76-30, simply ignoring AED laws, including putting one in a place it’s supposed to be, or an AED-designated user refusing to renew CPR training, may result in legal trouble.

AED requirements

AEDs must be placed in public high schools in South Carolina, and all high school students must be trained in CPR and the use of an AED device. Depending on the size and layout of the building, it may require more than one AED unit.

In addition, South Carolina’s “Smart Heart Act” is written to additionally require AEDs in athletic venues to protect athletes from life-threatening cardiac events related to sports. This requires coaches, as well as those involved in the sporting event, to be AED-trained.

Contact West Law Firm for Experienced Legal Guidance for AED Laws

If you have specific questions following an incident with an AED, you’re not alone. Despite the public prominence of AEDs, their use and regulations can be confusing. Our attorneys can help you make sense of a complicated legal case involving AED laws. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation and learn more about our practice, our services, and our commitment to our clients.

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