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Can You Sue an EMT for Medical Malpractice?

You can sue an EMT for negligence that caused harm or injury in a medical accident. However, even if the EMT is responsible for part of your injuries the EMT may not be able to compensate you for all of your damages. Instead, you may want to ask a medical malpractice law firm about who else may be responsible for your losses. 

The hospital, ambulance company, or other emergency room doctors may also share in the liability for your medical injuries. To find out what legal options you may have to recover medical bills, lost income, and compensation for your pain, contact an experienced medical malpractice law firm for legal advice. 

Liability of an EMT in a Medical Accident

Under the legal theory of negligence, an injury victim can file a legal claim against anyone who breached a duty of care that caused an injury and resulted in damage. This could include a claim against your neighbor for a dog bite, a distracted driver who caused an accident, or an EMT who dropped the stretcher, causing an injury. 

Generally, EMTs are not considered in the same types of lawsuits as doctors, physicians, and surgeons. This is because doctors are held to a stricter standard of care based on their extensive training, education, and experience. EMTs are often young people who have taken a basic EMT course and passed a test that allows them to provide limited services. 

The more practical reason that an injury victim may have limited interest in filing a medical injury claim against an EMT is that the EMT probably does not have individual liability insurance or enough assets to allow for recovery of damages. Most EMTs probably only have a few thousand dollars in assets, or even less. If you suffered a serious medical injury that resulted in hospitalization, surgery, disability, and extensive pain, a few thousand dollars will not provide much relief. 

However, there are other ways to help an injury victim recover after a medical accident, even if the medical accident involved a negligent EMT. If the EMT was working for an ambulance company or a healthcare provider, the employer may be liable for the negligence of their employees. An injury victim can file a lawsuit against the ambulance company or hospital as the employer which hired, trained, and supervised the negligent employee.

Liability of the Ambulance Company for an EMT’s Negligence

Employers may be liable for the negligence of their employees when the employee is acting in the scope of employment. This is known as vicarious liability. Why should the ambulance company be liable for the negligence of an ambulance driver? There are a few reasons why the injury victim can recover damages from the employer. 

Under respondeat superior, the employer is in a better position to be held accountable for the negligence of a worker. Individual employees may not have financial resources available to cover damages they caused through negligence. Many workers, including EMTs and ambulance drivers, are hourly workers that do not have a lot of money. If an injury victim won a $2 million award against the negligent EMT, they may not be able to recover more than a couple of thousand dollars. 

However, the employer has the financial resources to be able to cover serious injury damages of the injury victim. In the case of a negligent EMT, the hospital or ambulance may be a larger company that has insurance specifically to cover liability claims caused by the negligence of an employee. 

Additionally, employers have a role in reviewing applicants, hiring workers, supervising employees, and should be aware of problems with their employees that may put others in danger. If an ambulance company hires an EMT that smells of alcohol or patients report complaints of abuse, the ambulance company may be on notice that there may be problems that could put patients at risk of injury. 

Filing a Vicarious Liability Claim After an EMT Error

For an ambulance company to be held responsible for negligent actions of an EMT employee or ambulance driver, the negligence must have occurred within the worker’s “scope of employment.” This means the negligent act must have occurred when:

  1. The EMT was working or “on the clock”; 
  2. The injury was the result of an action that the EMT was hired to perform; and
  3. The ambulance company had an interest in the activity that the EMT had performed that caused the injury.

Pre-Hospital Medicine and Emergency Medical Services

The role of EMTs in prehospital medicine and emergency medical services (EMS) can vary greatly by state, region, and individual location. For example, the needs of the EMS community in a rural part of Texas may be very different compared to emergency medical services in Chicago. In most parts of Chicago, an emergency room is generally not more than 10 minutes away. In parts of rural America, an ER may be more than 2 hours away by ambulance. 

Prehospital medicine generally involves field medical care that occurs before the patient can be transported to the hospital. In a typical example, prehospital care could involve the fire department, an ambulance company, and local medical facilities. The fire department may respond to a 9-1-1 call with paramedics and EMTs to assess the situation. If the patient needs to be transported to the hospital, the fire department may use their own ambulance or call for a local ambulance provider to help transport the patient to the most appropriate medical facility. 

From the time the medical workers get to the scene until they hand off the patient at the hospital emergency room is considered prehospital care. This could include minor care such as monitoring vital signs and administering oxygen, up to full trauma services for a gunshot wound or serious vehicle accident. 

Is a Paramedic an EMT?

A paramedic and an EMT are separate titles. A basic EMT or EMT-B is generally the lowest level of training and education. EMTs have a much more limited scope of practice and cannot provide much more medical care than assisting doctors or paramedics, taking vital signs, monitoring the patient, and administering oxygen. 

Generally, a paramedic is the highest level of emergency medical technician. A paramedic may be able to administer medication, start IVs, conduct airway management, and provide breathing support with intubation. Paramedics have higher levels of education, training, and testing. 

EMT Education, Training, and Medical Experience

EMTs are some of the frontline workers in emergency medicine. EMTs can be used to transport patients who need monitoring on their way to hospital appointments, dialysis, or for minor emergencies. However, the amount of training, testing, and experience needed to become an EMT is very little. In most cases, a high school diploma or GED with a community college class and passing a basic test is enough to be an EMT. The minimum requirements for becoming an EMT are based on state regulations. 

Maryland EMT Training

In Maryland, EMT training can be offered through local community colleges, fire and rescue academy programs, the Maryland Fire and Rescue Institute (MFRI), and some Maryland high schools. To become an EMT in Maryland, an applicant must be: 

  • 18 years of age (or younger with parental permission)
  • Complete an approved EMS training course (approximately 16 hours)
  • Complete an approved internship before taking the written and practical certification exam
  • Score at least a 70% on the EMT written certification exam
  • Complete the EMT practical certification exam
  • Be affiliated with a BLS EMS Operation Program

EMT Requirements in Philadelphia

In Pennsylvania, EMT training courses may be offered through vocational centers, community programs, community college classes, and fire department programs. Qualifications for certification include: 

  • Be at least 18 years of age
  • EMT training course of approximately 150-200 hours
  • Pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technician’s (NREMT) examination
  • Complete the EMT practical certification exam

Chicago EMT Requirements

To become an EMT in Chicago, applicants may have to attend an EMT training program through a hospital, city college, local community college, or firefighter training academy. Most of these college programs offer EMS training and EMT certificate programs, including education, practical training, and testing. Minimum requirements include: 

  • 18 years of age or older
  • High school diploma or GED
  • Ability to read/comprehend at a college level
  • Complete the EMT Basic training
  • Pass the National Registry of Emergency Medical Technician’s (NREMT) examination
  • Complete the EMT practical certification exam

Lawsuits Against Fire Department EMTs

One reason that may limit the ability to recover damages from an EMT-caused injury is that some EMTs are working for the city or county fire department as an employee. In some cases, there is a limited ability to recover damages from government agencies. Government agencies, including fire departments and county services, may have partial immunity from civil lawsuits. Even if the injury victim can recover damages, they may be limited to economic damages and there may be a damages cap in place. 

However, just because you saw the EMT around a bunch of firefighters does not mean that the EMT is actually a government employee. Government agencies, including city and county EMS departments, often contract with private companies to provide additional services, including ambulance transportation and EMT support. It is important to make sure you have all the information available before determining whether or not you may have a legal claim. 

Part of the legal services provided by your medical malpractice attorney will be to conduct extensive research and discovery. This can help identify all parties who may be involved in the medical error. This can also help clarify the roles and responsibilities of individuals, agencies, and corporations. Even if you think that you cannot file a claim, your attorney may identify more than a few possible defendants that may share in the liability for causing your injuries

Is the ER Physician Also Liable for the Emergency Medical Error?

It may seem like it was the EMT that caused the major mistake that caused a serious medical injury. However, there are often multiple healthcare workers involved in emergency medical care. In many cases, when an EMT or ambulance delivers the patient to the emergency room, they still have to wait for the ER doctors to determine how to triage the patient. If the emergency room doctor makes an error during triage or the initial evaluation, it can have serious consequences for the patient. 

For example, if a patient arrives with complaints of weakness and the doctor dismisses the complaints, the patient may suffer serious damage from an undiagnosed stroke or ischemic attack. If a patient arrives complaining of serious abdominal pain, the emergency room doctor may ignore the patient because they suspect the patient just wants pain medication. However, the patient may have a serious underlying condition, including an infection, ruptured organs, or appendicitis. 

From the patient’s perspective, the injury may have been caused by the EMT failing to take proper note or failing to communicate the seriousness of the injury to the doctor. However, it is generally up to the doctor to do their own evaluation of the patient upon arrival. If the doctor does not properly evaluate the patient within the appropriate time or if the doctor misses signs of a more serious problem, the ER physician may be to blame for the medical injuries. 

Where Can I Find Legal Help to File a Medical Malpractice Lawsuit?

Medical malpractice is not like other legal practice areas. A successful medical malpractice law firm needs to understand both the medicine and the law in order to build a strong case for their clients and take that case all the way to trial. Make sure you have an attorney advocate on your side with a record of success recovering significant awards for their clients. 

An experienced medical malpractice lawyer can review your case, get a medical expert’s focused review, and help you understand your legal options to file a claim against the hospital, ambulance company, and hospitals responsible for the error. Contact experienced trial attorneys who have successfully represented emergency medicine victims and their families to recover financial compensation. Contact Gilman & Bedigian online or at 800-529-6162 for a free consultation.

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