Death in the Ambulance: When is the EMT at Fault?

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Emergency medical technicians are one of the most critical links in the lifesaving chain when someone is experiencing a medical emergency. EMTs and paramedics have tough jobs, and what they do from the time they get to a patient to the time they hand care over to a doctor at the hospital can dramatically affect a patient’s outcome, either positively or negatively.

What happens if an EMT makes a mistake while treating someone at the scene or on the way to the hospital? Can they be held liable for medical malpractice, just like other medical professionals?

The answer is, yes, EMTs and paramedics can be held accountable for careless or negligent actions that cause harm or death to a patient.

What are some examples of EMT negligence?

Some of the most common examples of negligence on the part of EMS providers include:

  • Failure to arrive at the scene in a timely manner
  • Failure to staff an ambulance properly
  • Failure to maintain and upkeep ambulance equipment
  • Failure to obtain a patient’s medical history
  • Improper use of medical devices
  • Failure to check vital signs
  • Failure to check airflow and breathing
  • Administering the wrong medication or an incorrect dosage
  • Failure to arrive on the scene with the correct equipment
  • Negligent driving behavior when transporting a patient
  • Refusal to treat a patient
  • Misdiagnosis or Inappropriate treatment

In some cases, EMTs are allowed to treat a patient even though they do not have the necessary level of certification or training to handle that specific emergency. There are varying levels of EMTs (basics, intermediates, paramedics). Each of these levels is allowed to perform certain procedures, with paramedics allowed to perform the most critical life-saving procedures. If an EMT-basic is allowed to treat and transport a patient that requires a paramedic’s level of care, this could constitute negligence on the part of those on the scene or the agency for failing to properly staff the ambulance with trained personnel.

Who is liable for an EMT mistake?

With most cases of EMT negligence, the provider or agency they work for will be held liable in the event they are sued for malpractice. This can include private transport agencies, medical facilities, and government entities (county or city government). In the event someone dies due to an EMT mistake, the victim’s family could be entitled to the following:

  • Medical expenses the deceased incurred before they died
  • Damages for victim’s pain and suffering before they died
  • Funeral and burial expenses
  • The pain and suffering of the deceased’s family
  • Loss of future income of the deceased
  • Loss of consortium damages

How to pursue a medical malpractice case against an EMT

If you have lost a loved one due to the mistake of an EMT, contact an attorney immediately. Your West Virginia wrongful death attorney will work to prove the following:

  • That there was a duty of care relationship between the EMT and the patient
  • That the EMT failed to administer the proper care or acted out of negligence
  • That the victim died due to the failed duty of care or negligence of the EMT

An attorney will work to show that another qualified individual would have acted differently to change the patient’s outcome for the better. This will require extensive investigation of what took place.