Pro Bono: Exposure to Liability When Certifying Others to Provide CPR

Entities such as youth camps and schools often enlist EMS agencies to help certify their staff to provide CPR. Agencies are also often asked to provide training and testing for CPR certification in workplaces for which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requires CPR and first aid preparedness. High-quality CPR saves lives, and if you’re qualified to serve as a CPR instructor, you should be eager to train and certify members of the community to act quickly and appropriately when they witness someone in cardiac arrest.

But as we know all too well, there can be adverse consequences when we provide services to protect the health and life of others. Is an EMS agency and its personnel who conduct community CPR training and certification exposed to liability if someone they train and certify makes a fatal mistake in providing CPR or fails to provide CPR when needed?

The answer to this question depends, in some measure, upon state law. Some states may provide absolute civil liability protection to CPR instructors for the errors and harm caused by the persons they certify. In other states, liability protection may be afforded if the training is provided under the auspices of an EMS agency and the EMS provider doesn’t engage in gross negligence or willful misconduct in providing the training. The same protections may not apply, however, if the EMS provider conducts the training independent of an authorized EMS training agency.

With or without these legal immunities, the best approach for an EMS agency and EMS personnel to protect themselves from liability for the CPR training and certification they provide is to ensure that the training comports with the latest recognized CPR standards. To grant CPR certification, EMS personnel must complete the process to become certified as a CPR instructor for a credible CPR certifying agency, such as the American Heart Association or the American Red Cross. Then they need to renew their instructor certification before expiration, generally every two years, and keep current with the latest CPR standards.

As a CPR instructor, you can’t be held liable if an individual you’ve certified to provide CPR causes harm to another as long as you provided appropriate CPR instruction and testing. We’re not aware of any lawsuits favorable to the plaintiff that alleged harm caused by the person who administered the CPR attributable to a CPR instructor for providing inadequate training.

If the standards for providing CPR change, it’s the responsibility of the individuals you certify need to keep up with those standards. You can only be held accountable for providing CPR training and certification according to the CPR standards that exist at the time you provide the training.

Of course, professional liability insurance is available for CPR instructors, but it may not be needed if state law provides adequate protection against civil liability. Consult with qualified legal counsel to determine whether securing professional liability insurance would be prudent in your state. But the bottom line to avoid any potential “instructor liability” is to be properly certified, maintain that certification, stay up to date with changes in CPR standards, and conduct all your training in accordance with the approved curriculum for the respective program you’re teaching.

Pro Bono was written by Ken Brody, Esq., senior attorney at Page, Wolfberg & Wirth, The National EMS Industry Law Firm. Visit the firm’s website at or find them on Facebook, Twitter or LinkedIn.

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