27 Sep 2017

First aid and the big question: What if I do something wrong?

The subject of first aid is a tricky one. In reality, everyone wants to help and do the right thing. But what if you’re uncertain? The voluntary paramedic Malte has answers to these and many other questions.


People often have inhibitions about providing first aid as they are worried about doing something wrong. What do you think about this, are their fears justified?

Malte: Yes, I find that these fears are fully justified, after all, you can end up in an extreme situation without any preparation whatsoever.

I also have these feelings when I arrive at an accident as a member of the public without the ambulance.

BUT: these fears should never under any circumstances stop you from helping. 

Of course, you have to first overcome the initial moment of shock, but then you should go into “helper mode”.


Looking at it another way, what legal obligations are there? What first aid MUST you perform?

Malte: It is quite clearly regulated by law that anyone who doesn’t help makes himself liable to prosecution. But for me, it is more important that first aid is about humaneness and civil courage.

After all, in principle, anyone can help, even with no medical knowledge. The following always applies: any help is better than no help.

It is often enough to be just there for the casualty, approach them and tell them that they are not alone, that there is someone there who has the situation under control and has already sent out an emergency call.

The level of help which must be provided is not clearly regulated. As long as the helping person acts to the best of their knowledge and belief, help beyond their physical and mental capabilities is not expected.

By the way, if the person providing first aid incurs material damages while helping, for example, an expensive suit is irreparably damaged, then this damage may be compensated. Either the insurance of the person responsible for the accident or the municipal accident insurance is liable. 


Will someone be prosecuted if they do something wrong?

Malte: As a layperson, you are protected by legislation – you cannot be held responsible if something goes wrong.

Provided you do not do anything wrong intentionally, then you do not have to worry.


If you are the first person to arrive at an accident and want to help, what is the most important thing to do first?

Malte: The most important thing is to ensure that you are not at risk of danger yourself – you will only be able to help if you don’t get injured yourself.

My tip is: when you arrive at the scene of an accident, breath in and out deeply, count slowly to ten and then assess the situation.

 A typical example where it can be dangerous for the helper is on the motorway where the traffic is still flowing. If other vehicles are racing past the accident, then this is extremely dangerous and may even result in a secondary accident.

In this case, it is important that the scene of the accident be made safe. Hazard-warning lights, high-visibility vests and warning triangles should be used.


What do you advise people to do if they are confronted with a casualty and don’t know whether to help and how and what to do?

Malte: Call the emergency services and say that you are at the scene of an accident and want to help but are not sure what to do.

The dispatchers in the control centers are trained to give instructions over the telephone in the appropriate situation.


Thank you Malte!


Have you ever been in such a situation? What experiences and tips can you pass on?