When you call for emergency medical services, you expect the EMT to provide you with the best care possible until you're able to get to a medical facility. Unfortunately, that doesn't always occur. For one reason or another, the EMT fails to fulfill his or her duty, causing you to become injured in the process. Here's what you need to know to collect compensation for damages you sustain.
Paramedics and Medical Malpractice
Paramedics and similar emergency medical service providers can be sued for medical malpractice just like doctors and nurses. However, where they differ from other healthcare providers is that almost every state has Good Samaritan laws that protect first responders from liability in the majority of situations.
The reason for this is to encourage people in these positions to help those requiring aid without the fear of being sued. Though the wording of the law varies between states, in general, as long as the emergency medical technicians acts within the scope of their training and knowledge, they can't be held liable for injuries that occur while treating someone.
At the same time, though, EMTs can be held liable if they behave in a negligent manner. You will have to prove:
- The technician didn't adhere to the medical standard of care provided by other EMTs with the same skills and knowledge (forgetting to sanitize a cut that later gets infected), or
- The technician engaged in gross negligence whereby his or her actions fell far below the medical standard of care (e.g. giving someone who can't breathe an inhaler rather than doing a tracheotomy), or
- The technician's behavior rose to the level of willful and wanton misconduct (e.g. the EMT refused to treat the patient for discriminatory reasons).
An example of negligence would be the Detroit EMT who refused to assist a patient because she did not want to want to perform CPR or interact with the family. Although the technician was a short distance away from the scene, she refused to do as instructed by her superiors and the child died because it did not receive medical care in time.
The Challenges of Suing
There are a couple of challenges you may run into when you want to file suit to collect damages caused by EMT negligence. The first issue is determining who is at fault. The 911 service is run by the city or county government, while the actual paramedic service is typically run by a private company. If the technician failed to properly do his or her job because of misinformation given by the dispatcher, then the county would likely be held liable for the injuries that result.
Unfortunately, suing the government is sometimes fraught with pitfalls. Some states have laws providing them with immunity from lawsuits. At the very least, you'll be required to file a complaint with the government first before you can proceed with a lawsuit. The problem is the time frame for filing a complaint is very short, typically anywhere from 30 to 120 days. If you don't file a complaint within that time frame, then you lose the right to sue forever.
On the other hand, if the paramedic was at fault, then you can usually sue the company who employed the person directly. However, it's not enough to prove the EMT was negligent. You'll have to prove the EMTs actions caused the injury and that the injury resulted in specific damages. For instance, if the EMT gave you the wrong medication but you were actually harmed by something the emergency room doctor did, the EMT wouldn't be held liable for the injury because his or her mistake didn't cause or contribute to the problem.
For more information about suing for injuries caused by an EMT, connect with a personal injury attorney like those at Piccin Law Firm.