After an accident, terror attack, or disaster, you see paramedics and ambulances rushing to the scene. Like paramedics, emergency medical technicians (EMTs) respond to these emergencies to provide first response services. A majority of these individuals perform their tasks well. Still, it can result in severe consequences when a mistake occurs because these individuals determine your recovery and whether the injuries will be long-term.
Unfortunately, like the physicians, surgeons, and doctors, EMTs can be held liable for malpractice when they make mistakes when providing emergency medical services at the scene or when they fail to treat you at all. In this blog, we will highlight EMTs’ roles and duties and how to file a claim against them for malpractice.
Who is an EMT?
EMT is the initial for an emergency medical technician. The emergency personnel are usually the first responders in an accident and found in emergency response departments like medical facilities and fire stations. The individuals have the training and skills to provide first response services and ensure victims are stable before receiving medical attention. Further, these professionals are equipped to handle emergencies and give a chance to the victims of these emergencies to receive medical care promptly.
In Nevada, the scope of practice within which EMTs can operate include:
- Administration of particular prescription drugs
- Pulse oximetry
- Provision of emergency care at the ambulatory stage like bleeding control, restricting spinal cord movement, and ensuring spinal immobilization.
- Use of survival collar
- Helping in normal and complex childbirth
- Acquiring diagnostic signs like respiratory rate, blood pressure, and temperature
- Nasopharyngeal and oropharyngeal airways
EMTs owe their patients a duty of care by conducting their duties diligently. However, sometimes the error in judgment resulting in life-changing injuries and, on some occasions, death. These mistakes are deemed as malpractice, and victims of the actions can file injury claims for negligence.
The ordinary occasions of EMTs malpractice include:
- Not following EMT evaluation conventions like checking the patient’s breathing and heart rate and ensuring they have enough breathing airways. Failure to check a patient’s breathing is negligence that could result in wrongful death when he airways block.
- Misdiagnosis by EMTs due to inadequate training or failure to evaluate all symptoms
- Rough handling. This includes turning an injured person carelessly, putting them on a stretcher roughly, and driving the ambulance to the hospital recklessly, causing further injuries.
- Improper utilization of ambulatory equipment
- Wrong medication stemming from inattention to vital signs and making assumptions
- Deliberately leaving a patient unattended at an accident scene or leaving them alone
- Insufficient staffing of ambulances
- Delayed response by first responders
- Not bringing sufficient medical equipment or working life-saving tools
Nevada Office Emergency Medical Systems (NOEMS) regulates EMTs licensing and operations. If these professionals fail to adhere to the set standard procedures, you can sue them for negligence and malpractice. Nevada EMS also sets the standard practices and policies followed by EMTs.
EMTs Operating Policies
The primary responsibility of an EMT is to provide medical assistance to a patient or accident victim until they arrive at the hospital for medical treatment. Their goal is not to treat the sign and symptoms but rather to slow them down, save lives and avoid life-changing injuries. Some of the policies put in place by the NOEMS include:
- All EMTs must be licensed by the Nevada OEMS or other relevant licensing bodies
- When EMTs arrive at an accident scene before the arrival of Advanced Life Support (ALS) Teams, they should evaluate the patient, offer necessary care, and arrange transport to the hospital.
- The EMTs should transport the patient(s) to the closest medical center and jot down the rationale used in determining the facility to take the patient.
- These technicians should apply their clinical knowledge in dangerous situations and decide if it’s best to wait for the ALS or move the patient to a nearby hospital. They should also document the rationale used in arriving at this decision in the patient’s Emergency Medical Systems record.
- An EMT can transport a hypertensive patient to the closest medical facility for treatment if the estimated time for doing so is less than the duration it will take ALS to arrive at the scene.
- The Nevada and federal statutes protect EMTs who cause further injuries to patients but were acting with due care and within the practice’s standards.
- The Good Samaritan Law under NRS 41.500 provides immunity to volunteers who respond to emergencies and never caused the crisis or are not grossly negligent.
Establishing if an EMT is Responsible for your Harm
When you understand the above EMT operating policies, it will be quick to know where your injuries happened and whether the EMTs are to blame for the willful or accidental injuries. The best person to explain your situation and offer guidance is a personal injury attorney. A profound attorney will identify your case’s elements and use them to gather the evidence you need to with the claim. The everyday situations when you can file a lawsuit against an EMT are as follows:
Gross Negligence By EMTs
When an EMT fails to act in due diligence or acts or fails to conduct themselves in a particular manner during emergency care administration, then you can sue them for gross negligence. The emergency personnel is deemed to have acted with gross negligence when:
- They offer you emergency medical services without proper certification or training
- They misuse medical equipment
- They delay in arriving at an accident when they should have arrived on time
- They perform procedures they are not authorized to perform
- They fail to bring with them life-saving equipment
- They fail to keep ambulances fully equipped with emergency equipment and medication
- They assault a patient in any way because this is an infringement of duty of care
- They fail to check and identify crucial signs in a patient
- They fail to disclose to a physician regarding medication administered to the patient and their medical history at the accident scene. The information is critical in ensuring patients obtain the proper medical care.
- EMTs fail to create and preserve medical reports on their patients for record-keeping
- An EMT abandons a patient in need of medical care
- They fail to provide appropriate emergency treatment based on their training
Inappropriate or Wrong Treatment
You can also file a claim against an EMT if they use the wrong treatment or inappropriate techniques to offer treatment. To prove malpractice on these professionals’ side, you must demonstrate that the technician failed to provide services or caused damages during treatment. However, you must indicate the technician caused extensive and unreasonable damage for the claim to be successful.
In particular incidents, EMTs might fail to provide emergency medical care to a patient due to discrimination or to cause harm. If an EMT willfully leaves you at the scene, fails to respond to an emergency, or administers the wrong medication or dosage, you could sue them for compensation.
Demonstrating an EMT Malpractice in Court
In Nevada, EMT malpractice is professional negligence that involves these technicians failing to use reasonable care, knowledge, or skills like an equally trained and skilled EMT under the same circumstances. When proving your claim in court, you must provide evidence to demonstrate that the EMT’s actions were against standard procedures and caused you to suffer harm or injuries. The elements you must are:
Duty of Care to you or a Loved One
The first element you must establish in a Las Vegas injury lawsuit is that the defendant, in this case, an EMT, owed you an obligation to provide reasonable standard care while performing an act that could cause harm. At the scene of an accident or terror attack, an EMT must diagnose and treat symptoms and promptly transport you to the nearest medical facility. When an EMT’s negligence injures you, you can file an injury claim against them for failure to act as per the set standards.
Contravention of the Standard Duty of Reasonable Care
To satisfy the court that the defendant owed you an obligation to exercise due care but contravened this duty. It’s up to your injury attorney to demonstrate to the court that the EMT came short of these standards of reasonable care.
When proving this element, you should use expert witnesses’ testimony like another EMT to demonstrate what a reasonable EMT would do under similar circumstances. Also, you can provide witness testimony, including yours and that of bystanders. The patient report in the emergency medical system records can be used as evidence of malpractice because EMTs note down the patient’s signs and treat these symptoms in the information.
The Breach was the Proximate Causation of your Injury
With the help of your attorney, you must demonstrate beyond reasonable certainty that the breach of duty by an EMT was the legal causation of your injuries. You can argue that the EMTs made a wrong diagnosis of the damage resulting in wrong medication and further harm. Additionally, if it was not for these technicians’ actions, the worsening of your condition or injury could not have occurred, resulting in damages.
Gathering Evidence for your EMT Malpractice Suit
In personal injury cases, the compensation awarded usually depends on the strength of your evidence. Evidence gathering, therefore, should be your primary focus. And because you can’t go back to the scene of the injury or gather evidence based on the nature of your condition or injury, you should reach out to an injury attorney to begin the investigations right away. Your attorney will rely on patient records in the emergency records system, pictures (if any are available), your description of the events, police footage, torn clothing, or security footage.
Note that all the evidence gathered should be arranged logically for a more straightforward presentation. Further, because these cases can drag in court for months or years, it’s critical to store and preserve the evidence gathered to avoid loss or damage, affecting the case’s outcome or the damages awarded.
The Process of filing an EMT Malpractice Claim
If due to an EMT’s negligence, your injury or conditions worsens, you should contact your attorney and commence the claim process. An attorney will first evaluate the case and decide if it has merit. It’s not wise to represent yourself in these cases because their complexity is likely to reduce your chances of a favorable outcome.
However, with the help of an attorney, all the instructions and procedures will be followed to the letter, increasing maximum compensation chances. The rules for filing a malpractice lawsuit must be followed strictly; otherwise, the claim will be void.
The process begins with you or your attorney visiting the local civil court where the malpractice took place. The court will issue the relevant documents to start the process. In the paperwork, you will give a narrative of the events that led to your injuries and provide details of the EMT responsible for the harm. Personal information and contacts of the responsible party are also critical in this process. The guidance of your injury attorney can simplify this process.
Remember, EMTs cannot be called to respond to an emergency if you are not seriously injured or ill. Proving that the EMT’s supposed negligence was the cause of your demise or harm is therefore very difficult.
The court will require an affidavit from an EMT expert in the same practice as the defendant to demonstrate proximate causation. It must show the harm was because of an EMT’s negligence and not your condition or injuries. A reasonable attorney should help you find the right expert witnesses to evaluate your claim and present strong arguments.
Legal representation in these cases is critical considering the multiple court appearances and deadlines. Additionally, the EMTs you are suing will have profound injury attorneys by their side, which is why you need an attorney in your corner to level the playing ground.
Requirements to File an EMT Malpractice Lawsuit
To receive compensation, you must show your reasons for the claim using relevant paperwork and certificates. Without any of these, the chances of winning the case are slim. Fortunately, with the help of an attorney, you will meet all filing requirements meaning your case will be heard based on merit.
When bringing a lawsuit against an EMT, you need to prove negligence in the form of witness statements, records, and expert testimonies. Besides, you will need a certificate of merit, otherwise called an affidavit, a document containing the specialist opinion. In the affidavit, the expert witness must state that EMT mistakes caused your injuries or death.
Another crucial requirement for winning the case is hiring a personal injury attorney. The complexity of malpractice lawsuits often requires legal representation for enhanced chances of winning the suit.
What if you Share Negligence in the Case?
Nevada adopts the comparative fault or negligence doctrine. The rule says that your negligence as a plaintiff shouldn’t surpass that of the defendant. However, if that is the case, you won’t be eligible for any damages. When you happen to share fault, your compensation will be reduced by the defendant’s percentage of fault.
Damages Available in an EMT Malpractice Lawsuit
If EMT malpractice is proved beyond reasonable certainty, you will recover general and special damages. Special damages cover you for monetary losses incurred due to the negligence by the defendant. They include medical bills (past and future), wrongful birth, loss of income and earning capability, therapy, and counseling.
On the other end, general damages are those costs that are difficult to attach a dollar value or calculate. They include pain and anguish, anxiety, disfigurement, loss of enjoyment, companionship, and emotional distress.
Note that non-economic or general damages are capped at $350,000 per plaintiff. The amount depends on the effects of the injury on your health in the future. If the EMT acted with malice, you could claim punitive damages not to make you whole again but to punish these professionals and discourage others from engaging in the same conduct. For an estimate of the amount that you will receive, consult with an EMT malpractice attorney.
Suing an EMT for Wrongful Death
An EMT’s negligence can result in the death of a loved one. In that case, the descendants of the deceased can file a wrongful death claim. The statute of limitations for this claim is two years after the demise. Wrongful deaths usually occur when EMTs fail to provide life-saving treatment to a patient, drive an ambulance recklessly, withholding emergency care, or administering the wrong treatment.
If the patient can inflict self-harm, they should be restrained and closely monitored during transportation to a nearby medical facility. During the ambulatory stage, the EMTs should observe standard protocol to prevent self-harm or wrongful death. Failure to follow these protocols is deemed as malpractice and could result in a lawsuit.
Find an EMT Malpractice Attorney Near Me
If you wish to file an EMT malpractice lawsuit, you should reach out to the Las Vegas Personal Injury Attorney Law Firm at 702-996-1224. Our attorneys will help you file the case and represent you in court.
In cases where the EMT accepts responsibility, instead of proceeding to court, we will negotiate with the organization the defendant works for to obtain a settlement. Either way, our attorneys will guide you through this time-consuming and costly process of a favorable outcome.