It’s common to see ambulances and paramedics rushing at the scenes of accidents, disasters and terror attacks. Like paramedics, EMTs are a group of first responders who play a crucial role in providing first response services to victims. In the event of an accident or medical emergency, the first response determines your recovery and whether you will sustain long term injuries. In some cases, the emergency response personnel may handle you with negligence, which results in more harm to you. You may want to sue the EMT for malpractice. This article explains the roles and responsibilities of EMTs and how you can sue them with the help of Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney.

What is an EMT?

EMT is the short form of Emergency Medical Technician. EMTs are the first responders in the event of an accident. They are often found in departments that respond to emergencies such as the fire department and hospitals. These individuals are trained in providing first aid and have the responsibility of stabilizing an injured person before they receive medical care. In addition, they have training on how to respond to various emergencies. EMTs play a crucial role in giving victims of emergencies a chance to receive medical care promptly. They provide care and compassion to victims of traumatic events.

EMTs in California are trained and should be licensed to provide medical emergency services to victims. They operate within the following scope of practice

  • Provision of prehospital emergency care such as bleeding control, spinal motion restriction, spinal immobilization, traction splinting and extremity splinting
  • Obtaining diagnostic signs such as blood pressure, temperature, level of consciousness, pupil status and respiratory rates
  • Cardio-pulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
  • Assisting in normal and complicated childbirth
  • Administration of certain medication
  • Nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal airways
  • Pulse oximetry
  • Use of a cervical collar

In the course of their work, EMTs can make errors in judgment that could lead you into sustaining an injury that may affect your life. Some of the common mistakes EMTs make are:

  • Delaying the transportation of an injured person: an EMT should hasten the transport of the patient to the nearest receiving facility that can provide care for the patient. Delaying such transportation would be considered gross misconduct and a breach of the duty of care protocol
  • Rough handling: rough handling includes carelessly turning the injured person, placing them on a stretcher roughly and reckless driving. Rough handling can lead to injuries on the spine neck and other areas of the body
  • Wrong medication: wrong medication results from failure to pay attention to the vital signs of the patient, wrong attempts at diagnosis and making assumptions
  • Failure to support the neck and spine: failing to support the neck and spine could result in neck and spinal injuries that could have lasting effects on the patient
  • Misdiagnosis of the patients’ condition: misdiagnosis arises due to lack of proper training and failure to consider all symptoms. Misdiagnosis could lead to wrongful medication
  • Failure to check the patient’s breathing: one of the responsibilities of EMTs is to monitor and record the vital signs of the patient. Failing to check the breathing of the patient is an issue of negligence that could lead to wrongful death by failing to unblock the airways, perform CPR or administer oxygen

EMTs operate under standard procedures set by the California Emergency Medical Services Authority. The authority also licenses EMTs and supervises them. Where the EMT fails to operate within these standard procedures and leads to the injury of you or your loved one, you can sue them for negligence, malpractice, and misconduct. In the case that an EMT breaches protocol, then they are liable for their actions.

Operating Policies for EMTs

The fundamental role of an EMT is to provide medical support to the patient until he or she can get medical care. They do not work to treat the condition but to slow down the signs and symptoms, save lives and increase the chances of a full recovery. To ensure that they perform their duties, several parameters are put in place to guide them. These include

  • The EMT should be licensed by the local Emergency Medical Services Authority or other relevant licensing bodies in California
  • An EMT should assess the patient, provide the necessary care and make travel arrangements should they arrive before the Advanced Life Support teams
  • The EMT should transport the patient to the nearest receiving facility. The EMT should also document the rationale they followed when determining where to transport the patient
  • If an EMT encounters a life-threatening condition, they should apply their clinical judgment to decide whether it is in the best interests of the patient to wait for the ALS or to transport the patient to the most accessible receiving facility. They should document their rationale on the patient’s EMS care record
  • An EMT personnel can immediately transport a hypertensive patient with life-threatening and penetrative injuries to the nearest receiving center where the estimated time of transport is less than that the ALS team will take to arrive
  • Good Samaritan laws. Good Samaritan laws are meant to safeguard volunteers who respond to emergencies. These laws provide immunity for such volunteers who may accidentally cause injury to a victim as they try to save them. These laws do not apply to individuals who act with the intention of hurting the victim, or that act with negligence when handling the emergency. For EMTs, good Samaritan laws often do not apply since an EMT is a trained professional with protection from the state and federal laws as long as they act within the set standards
  • The state and federal laws protect EMTs who cause injury to a patient but are acting with all due care within the standards of his or her practice

Determining Whether an EMT is Responsible for Your Injuries

In the course of their activities, an EMT could intentionally or unintentionally inflict injury upon you or your loved one. Understanding the standard care policies under which the EMT should operate, you will be able to point out where the injury occurred, whether the EMT could have done something to prevent its occurrence, or whether an action they took led to your injuries. A personal injury lawyer will guide you towards preparing your case and receiving compensation for your injuries or those of your loved one.

In most cases, you cannot sue the EMT directly but can sue the ambulance company or the company which the EMT works for. The problem could be that they have no set protocols that ensure their emergency service providers do not breach their duty of care to their patients.

Personal injury attorneys are skilled in identifying the components of your case that could indicate negligence, gross negligence, and wanton and willful acts. After determining where your situation lies, the attorney should guide you towards collecting evidence for the case. Here are the most common instances of malpractice that you can cite when you sue an EMT.

Gross Negligence

Gross negligence involves the lack of any diligence or care, voluntary action or an omission an EMT can make when administering emergency care to a patient. Gross negligence is in direct disregard of the legal duty of the EMT to the patient. An EMT could be considered grossly negligent if:

  • He or she treats without the proper certification and training: it is illegal for an EMT to treat without the appropriate certification recognized in the state and Los Angeles
  • Delays in arriving at the scene of an emergency when they reasonably could have arrived earlier
  • Performs procedures that they are not allowed to perform. There are various levels of emergency service providers, who have different training and are allowed to perform certain emergency procedures only. Performing procedures one is not trained for is a serious case of gross negligence
  • Misuses medical equipment
  • Fails to bring along important life-saving instruments
  • Fails to keep an ambulance stocked: an EMT is an emergency service provider. Therefore, they should keep their ambulances fully stocked with the equipment and medication required for dealing with medical emergencies
  • Assaults the patient physically or sexually: assaulting the patient in any way is a violation of the duty of care to that patient
  • Fails to check the vital signs of the patient
  • Fails to provide communication to the physician when they hand in the patient: the EMT should communicate any information about the patient, drugs they have administered and any medical history they may have gathered from the patient. This will allows doctors and receiving officers at the medical facility to provide the right care to the patient
  • Fails to create and preserve medical records: EMTs should take notes on the patient's changes, condition, and other relevant information during their practice. In addition, they should preserve this information for use as part of the medical records of the patient
  • Fails to transport the patient to a medical facility: abandonment of the patient who requires medical attention is gross misconduct and a violation of the duty of care
  • Fails to treat the patient: the EMT should provide treatment to the patient depending on their training. Where they do not have the relevant training, they should contact another emergency medical service provider, and transfer the patient to them

The above practices are below the expected standard emergency care that an EMT should offer, and place the EMT in liability for damages, injury and wrongful death of the patient.

Improper or Wrong Treatment

Where the EMT offers the wrong treatment or uses the wrong methods to provide treatment to the patient, they may be liable for a malpractice lawsuit. In such a case, the patient must prove that the wrongful treatment caused injury or damages to them. You can also sue the EMT if he or she declines to provide treatment or causes damage during their treatment.

The kind of treatment may determine whether the EMT is actually on the wrong. For example, some medical emergency procedures such as CPR may cause broken ribs. Therefore, you may need to prove that the EMT caused extensive and unreasonable damage beyond what is normal.

Willful Actions

Sometimes, the EMT can fail to provide emergency care to the victim intentionally due to discrimination or with the intention to cause harm. Willful actions include an EMT failing to respond to an emergency when they can, intentionally leaving the patient at the scene or administering the wrong dosage or medication to the patient. 

Proving an EMT Malpractice in Court

The claim you make against an EMT should be backed with proof. You need to leave the jury and the court with the view that the EMT acted against standard procedure. To prove negligence, you need to show that:

  • The EMT had the duty of care to you or your loved one to act prudently and reasonably given the situation. You should prove that the EMT breached their duty of care by failing to act by the expectations of a professional EMS provider; and
  • You sustained injury because of the EMTs breach of the duty of care. You should prove beyond doubt that the EMT breached their duty of care which was the primary reason for your injury. For example, a wrong diagnosis resulted in the wrong medication and worsened the existing condition.

Collecting Evidence for an EMT Malpractice Lawsuit

The evidence you collect directly determines the strength of your case and the compensation you are likely to receive. Collecting evidence for personal injury cases can be quite complicated since it may be impossible to go back to the scene where the injury happened. However, you can collect physical evidence such as medical records, witness statements, photographs (where applicable), security footages, police footages, torn clothing, public records and sometimes your own written narrative of the incident.

You should then organize this information logically for easy access. Additionally, the evidence you acquire should be preserved and stored appropriately to avoid loss or damage.

Suing an EMT for Wrongful Death

Where you lost your loved one due to the negligent behavior of an EMT, you can file for a wrongful death lawsuit. Wrongful death can occur when the EMT failed to offer lifesaving treatment to the victim, carelessly driving an ambulance, administration of the wrong treatment and withholding emergency care to a victim.

Where the patient inclines self-harm, the EMT is required to hold the patient down in restrains and monitor them carefully as they transport them to the receiving facility. If while transporting the patient, the EMT fails to follow standard protocol, which leads to self-harm or wrongful death of the patient, the EMT is liable for negligence resulting in wrongful death.

Suing an EMT for Personal Injury

You can sue an EMT for personal injury where their negligence directly caused you harm. Such negligent behavior that could lead to personal injury includes rough handling and use of the wrong equipment. Like in all cases of medical malpractice, you have to prove that the EMT actions were negligent; a professional EMT would not have behaved in the same manner in a similar situation.

Filing for A Personal Injury Lawsuit Against an EMT

Where you have established that the EMT is at fault for breaching their duty to care and acting negligently, you can proceed to file a personal injury lawsuit against the EMT. Your attorney should help you in the filing process and the presentation of evidence to the court. The evidence you present to the court should include everything you feel will be helpful to your case.

In some cases, you can consult with the EMT who caused you injury. Where the EMT accepts the responsibility for their part in the injury, the case may not go to court. The organization for which the EMT works may offer settlement for your injury.

Where settlement occurs outside a court, your lawyer signs a release document that contains all the terms of the agreement. Where the lawyer feels the terms are acceptable, you will sign the document and receive the settlement.

In most cases, medical malpractice cases are expensive and time-consuming. Therefore, you need to prepare and gather evidence that proves beyond any doubt that malpractice did occur. Given that the EMTs are often acting in good faith with the intention of saving lives, the protection they receive from the state could make it hard for you to win a case without the preparation of a strong case backed with sufficient evidence. Your lawyer should help you throughout the process including advising you on the chances of winning the case when you get to trial.

Find A Personal Injury Attorney Near Me

Some EMTs may act with negligence and disregard their duty of care towards you or your loved one leading to injury or wrongful death. In such situations, you need the help of dedicated legal team such as the Los Angeles Personal Injury Attorney who will help you in gathering evidence, filing for the case and defending your right to the appropriate medical care. If you are in Los Angeles, contact our Los Angeles Injury Lawyer today at 424-231-2013 and schedule a free consultation.