I was gathering some information on a safety related site about single vehicle crashes and riding away without reporting an accident and this comment was made:
“When I took a first aid class a while back, they spent a lot of time discussing the legal trouble you can get into trying to help someone. Pull someone out of a burning car and fail to handle a spinal injury properly and they end up paralyzed you can get sued even if you saved their life.”
The conversation progressed to:
“Just be careful about doing anything more than not letting someone die. If somebody is not going to die anytime soon, usually better to wait for the professional.”
Which is actually sound advice. I’m an “aid and comfort” sort of guy, hell, I’ll even light your smoke while we wait for assistance. I would address the stuff the Boy Scouts taught me: ABC Airway, Breathing and Circulation. To listen to some folks in the conversation you should live in constant fear of being sued, so much fear that (and this is a quote):
“When we had a boat and I took a lot of friends out, I considered getting my captains license to make sure I was doing my best to operate the boat safely. I was advised that could be a bad idea. As just some shmo with a boat I am held to a lower standard than a licensed captain, even if I am not charging anybody for the ride..”
Again, it’s probably sound legal advice and fine except the idea that you’re better off knowing less. Are you ever really better off knowing less? I think they call that “willful ignorance”.
Heck, by taking basic first aid this gentleman appears to have learned a “best practice” which is “lifesaving measures only”. Don’t be resetting bones, or grabbing that fishing line and a hook out of the saddle bags and stitching things up, open heart surgery is a bad idea, as is any invasive procedure. If someone has arterial blood spray a tourniquet may be in order. See, every rider should have basic first aid training. Should you have a Combat Livesaver rating? Probably not. True story: was teaching a experienced course when a rider fell. He lay there on the ground a moment so I asked the line of riders “Anyone here with advanced medical training?” A young man said, “Yes”. I asked “Where?” He said “Navy”. I said, “Come with me Corpsman.” Worst fear was that something more that embarrassment was holding this crashed rider to the ground; I didn’t want to roll this guy over without a pro there. Luckily our rider’s pride was the only injury.
So, what should you know and do? Get a little training. Go to the local Red Cross–they’ll know where you can get absolute rookie training. What new parent doesn’t want a 16 year old baby sitter with some Red Cross certification? Maybe you and your riding buddies should get some too! Why? Because often at crashes riders want to immediately take off their helmets. I’m fine with that. But if you can’t get up? Maybe leave it on so you don’t wrench your neck getting it off? If your buddy asks you to “Take off my helmet, would ya?” Maybe you’re better off saying, “We’ll let the paramedics make that decision.” Like plenty of areas of riding knowing what you don’t know is very important. That means taking a course which you can even do online. Learn a little something and find out what you don’t know so you can do the right thing.