Getting Help With A Lawyer

When An Emergency Goes From Bad To Worse: Wrongful Death And EMT Negligence

When you're having a serious health problem at home or while you're out somewhere, the first thing you probably think to do is call 911 for an ambulance. Most of the time, quick action on the part of the emergency medical technicians (EMTs) who respond to calls ends up saving lives. 

Sometimes, however, medical negligence can occur between the time the EMTs respond and a patient gets to the hospital -- and that can be fatal for patients.

What Is EMT Negligence?

There are a number of different ways that EMT negligence can occur, and some more obvious than others. In general, it can happen through:

1. Mistakes with medication

EMTs have the capacity to administer some kinds of medication -- but they need to take precautions. For example, administering morphine to a patient without checking for drug allergies could be a fatal mistake.

2. Failure to observe protocols

EMTs need to gather as much information as they can before treating a patient. Failing to ask questions of a conscious patient or someone who is present about the patient's health history can lead to serious problems. Something as simple as failing to check for a medical alert bracelet or necklace could lead a paramedic to overlook something important. For example, a patient with Addison's Disease who collapses needs cortisone in order to raise their blood pressure -- but a paramedic wouldn't ordinarily think to administer it unless he or she checked the patient's medical alert bracelet.

3. Diagnostic errors

EMTs have a lot of medical experience and knowledge -- but they aren't doctors. Their primary role is to respond to life-threatening situations and to try to stabilize a patient long enough to get that patient to the hospital where a doctor can make a complete diagnosis and take over. Sometimes EMTs overstep their bounds and act like doctors instead of providing transport for a patient who needs advanced medical treatment and tragedies result.

4. Ambulance accidents

There are around 4,500 traffic accidents involving ambulances every year -- and 34% of those result in injuries. While it may be difficult, transporting a patient safely to the hospital is part of an EMT's job. When an EMT is reckless and drives in a way that endangers his or her patient, that's also a type of negligence.

5. Communication errors

Finally, EMTs sometimes fail to give the doctors at a hospital the full story about a patient. They hand the patient off without providing information that's needed for doctors to make an accurate diagnosis or initiate life-saving treatment in time to save that patient's life. Even a paperwork error can be fatal.

If your loved one died as the result of an EMT's mistake, you may be able to recover damages. Talk to an attorney who is experienced in wrongful death law to learn more about the possibility.