Cardiac Arrest Emergencies in Public: Your Rights

an emergency AED Automated External Defibrillator sign

Nearly 350,000 people in the U.S. every year suffer from a cardiac arrest, a medical emergency where the heart stops beating properly, leading to a loss of blood flow to the body. As one of the leading causes of death in the U.S., cardiac arrests have continually garnered more media attention and spotlight. A cardiac arrest occurs when the heart’s electrical system malfunctions, leading to abnormal heart rhythms called arrhythmias.

Fortunately, medical devices such as Automated External Defibrillators (AEDs) can save lives in such emergencies. Due to the suddenness of cardiac arrests, people can die within minutes if proper medical assistance is not rendered. That is why New Jersey lawmakers have introduced laws increasing the availability of AEDs in certain public spaces. 

Stats about AEDs:

  • Nearly 9 out of 10 people who receive a shock from an AED within the first minute of a cardiac arrest survive.  
  • Only 10% of people who suffer a cardiac arrest in public receive AED assistance from a bystander. 
  • Heart disease is the most common cause of death in the U.S. 
  • A total of 1,700 lives are saved annually from the use of AEDs in public by bystanders. 
  • At least 500 additional lives can be saved every year through the use of AEDs by bystanders. 
  • For each minute an AED is not used during a cardiac arrest, a person’s survival rate decreases by nearly 10%. 
  • Almost 15% of all out-of-hospital cardiac arrests occur in public spaces such as shopping malls or movie theaters. 

Understanding AEDs

An Automated External Defibrillator is a medical device that can save a person suffering from a cardiac arrest. The device works by analyzing a person’s heart rhythm and then sending an electrical shock to return it to its normal rhythm. The portable device is specifically designed with instructions relayed by the machine, allowing untrained bystanders to use it. As such, AEDS need to be present in public places in the event of a cardiac arrest emergency where every minute matters. In addition, some AEDs are built so the device automatically sends the shock without requiring input from the user.  

Properly utilizing an AED during a cardiac arrest emergency can help save time and reduce the risk of accidents. The steps to using the device are listed below.

Steps to use an AED: 

  1. Call out to the person to see whether they are responsive. If they do not respond, check their vital signs to see if they have a pulse and are breathing. If they are not breathing, perform CPR. 
  2. If the person is unresponsive and has no pulse, turn on the AED and listen for the audio commands.  
  3. Open the person’s shirt and prepare to place pads on the chest. 
  4. Attach one of the device pads to the upper right chest and the other to the lower left chest. 
  5. Ensure pads are connected to the defibrillator.  
  6. Push the analyze button on the device and wait for the analysis to be completed. 
  7. If AED determines a shock is needed, push the shock button on the device to send the signal. 
  8. Wait for the device to complete another analysis and follow its instructions. Stay with the person until medical responders arrive on the scene.

New Jersey AED Laws

Due to the necessity of rapid medical assistance in a cardiac arrest emergency, New Jersey lawmakers have passed laws mandating AEDs be present in certain public spaces. This includes all public and non-public schools in the state, as mandated in N.J.S.A. 18A:40-41a, commonly called Janet’s Law. In addition to requiring all New Jersey K-12 schools to have an AED on-site, the law also requires staff to be AED trained and the school to develop an Emergency Action Plan. New Jersey statute 2A:62A-31 mandates that health clubs, including gyms, must have a functioning AED on site.

Chapter IX of the NJ State Sanitary Code features code 8:26-5.3, which requires swimming pools with lifeguards to have an AED. The code also regulates lifesaving equipment for bathing beaches, requiring AEDs if a beach can accommodate 500 swimmers or has a lifeguard present as part of 8:26-5.12. These laws ensure that public spaces have AEDs available and ready in case of a medical emergency, such as a cardiac arrest. 

Finally, laws have been passed encouraging bystanders to use AEDs in the event of an emergency. N.J.S.A 2A:62A-27 mandates that a person acting in good faith who uses a defibrillator to render aid is immune to civil liability for any resulting personal injury. This law was enacted to encourage the widespread use of defibrillators by bystanders by removing the fear of potential civil liability. This is commonly referred to as a Good Samaritan law. 

FAQs About AEDs:

1. Is special training required to use an AED? 

No, special training is not required since AEDs are designed to be used by untrained bystanders. The device will relay instructions in the event of an emergency, so no formal training is required to operate an AED. However, training in using AEDs and being familiar with the device can reduce the time needed to use it and minimize the risk of accidents.   

2. Do AEDs expire? 

While the device itself does not expire, its batteries and pads can. Typically, the batteries can last around two years before they are set to expire, although this can vary. The same goes for AED pads, as they can last around two years before they need to be replaced. It is important to ensure AEDs are always properly maintained with functioning batteries and pads. 

3. Can AEDs be used on infants? 

AEDs can be safely used on infants in the event of a cardiac arrest emergency. While AEDs are typically used on adults, most come with pediatric settings that allow for use on infants and small children, as well as pediatric pads that are to be used on children under 8 years old. However, it is important to note that in the event pediatric pads are not available, AEDs with adult pads are safe to use on infants and should be used.

4. Can an AED accidentally shock someone?

 No, AEDs are purposely designed only to deliver electrical shocks when the device determines it is appropriate. That is why the device analyzes the heart’s rhythm before determining whether a shock is necessary. This function of the device is designed to ensure accidental shocks do not occur as they can be harmful.

5. How long do I have to use an AED in an emergency? 

In a typical cardiac arrest emergency, CPR and a defibrillator should be administered as soon as possible. It is estimated that after around eight minutes, a cardiac arrest can be fatal, with severe brain damage occurring after only five minutes. However, life-threatening injuries can occur even sooner, so it is essential to use an AED as soon as one is available.  

6. Can I reuse the pads? 

No, the pads on an AED are not to be reused and are instead designed for single use. This is to prevent pads with wear and damage from being used, which can interfere with delivering the necessary electric shock. In addition, the adhesive on the pads can wear out after use, making it difficult to secure them on a person. This can be a significant problem in the event of a cardiac arrest emergency.

Your Rights

If you have suffered injuries or harm related to a defective AED, you may have a personal injury claim. The claim could be against the property owner if the property had no AED on the premises in violation of state law. There could also be a claim against the manufacturer or distributor of the device if it does not properly function due to negligence. Of course, every personal injury case is unique, so it is important to speak with a qualified personal injury attorney.

How We Can Help

Davis, Saperstein, & Salomon P.C. is committed to helping the injured and protecting their rights. We understand the profound impact a cardiac arrest or other medical emergency can have on individuals and their families. That is why we fight for those who suffer serious injuries because of a lack of medical preparedness. We guide our clients through every step of the legal process, ensuring their rights are protected and they receive fair compensation for their injuries. Nothing can ever replace losing a loved one or suffering serious injuries, but financial compensation can provide some relief. It can help ease the burden of emotional devastation, loss of earning potential, and more. We continue to work tirelessly to promote compliance with AED-mandated laws in New Jersey.

Contact Us Today

Injuries or deaths resulting from cardiac arrests are often due to a lack of necessary AEDs in public spaces. If you or a loved one has suffered due to such negligence, contact our experienced personal injury lawyers at Davis, Saperstein & Salomon today. Let us help you fight for the justice and compensation you deserve. Contact us today to schedule your free consultation.