Issue: February 2013
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Emergency Medical Services: Liability and Immunity for Medical Rescue

Introduction

Emergency Responders: Liability for Aid
Recently, a jury awarded over $5 million to the family of a boy who died after 911 dispatched two firefighter/paramedics, two policemen, and one lieutenant fireman. Without examining the drug-overdosed teen, they left. The teen died later that night.
 
Emergency medical services care will affect most people in this country at some time. According to the Emergency Medical Services arm of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, in 2009 an estimated 28,004,624 EMS patient transports occurred nationwide, or about 952 for each 10,000 people in the United States.
 
It is critical for attorneys to understand the liability facing emergency medical care providers whether the provider is medically trained, an ambulance transporter, or a Good Samaritan. It is also important for EMTs, paramedics, firefighter, and others providing aid, as well as insurers and employers, to be aware of liability exposure and what strategies to employ in litigation.

The Perspectives: Improve Your Strategy

Attorneys:

What proof is needed for liability for negligence by an emergency medical services care provider responding to a medical emergency? And, what is a potential strategy for the attorney to employ?

Physicians:

How can liability for negligence in providing emergency medical aid be avoided for an injury related to treatment by an emergency medical services care provider? And, what is a potential strategy for the EMS care provider to employ?

Insurers:

Can a payout under a negligence liability policy be avoided by proof that the health provider was not negligent or there was no coverage for willful misconduct? And, what is a potential strategy for the insurer to employ?

Employers:

Can an emergency medical services organization be subject to liability for the negligent actions of its EMS care providers? And, what is a potential strategy for the organization to use?


Practice the Technique: Checklists

Attorneys:

Counsel must develop a checklist of facts and circumstances, specific to the client’s situation, which demonstrates proof of negligence by an emergency medical services care provider in responding to a medical emergency. 

Physicians:

The other parties to the litigation will scrutinize the actions and treatment of the health care provider responding to the medical emergency, which may be a physician or another emergency responder. Emergency medical services care providers must consider this litigation checklist when presenting a defense to a liability claim.

Insurers:

When investigating a claim of negligence or injury in connection with medical treatment by an emergency medical services care provider, the insurer should carefully evaluate the actions of the EMS care provider.

Employers:

In the case of a hospital, emergency medical transport service, or other emergency medical care organization that could be considered the employer of the emergency medical services care provider, the organization should be concerned with direct liability for the actions or failure to act of its employees or possible vicarious liability for injury from the negligence of an EMS care provider.  

Expert Analysis

How Can Emergency Medical Responders Avoid Potential Legal Liability When Providing Aid?

Jeffrey L. Pellegrino, Ph.D.

What Are the Most Significant Liability Issues Facing EMS Medical Directors?

W. Ann Maggiore J.D.

Litigation

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Arbitration or mediation may be required by contract or statute, mandated by the court or, in some circumstances, may be the appropriate method for a negotiated resolution. 


Reasons to Reach Settlement

The following are reasons why the attorney, emergency medical services care provider, insurer, or employer would want to reach settlement, and not take the action to trial.


Reasons to Go to Trial

The following are reasons why the attorney, emergency medical services care provider, insurer, or employer would want to take the action to trial.


Jury Awards and Settlements

How much have juries awarded and what settlements have been reached recently in cases involving emergency medical responders? 



Medical Examples

Emergency Medical Services

This section provides medical information on emergency medical care including care protocols, victim physiological changes during emergencies, emergency and rescue equipment, terminology, and responder certification.



Law and Medicine Resources

Law and Medicine Resources

Provided below is a listing of law and medical references for further information on emergency responder liability.   


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Emergency Medical Services: Liability and Immunity for Medical Rescue

Table of Contents
Introduction

Expert Analysis
   Jeffrey L. Pellegrino, Ph.D.
   W. Ann Maggiore J.D.

The Perspectives: Improve Your Strategy
   Attorneys
   EMS Care Providers
   Insurers
   Employers and Risk Managers

Practice the Technique: Checklists
   Attorney Checklist
   Emergency Medical Services Care Provider Checklist
   Insurer Checklist
   Employer Checklist

Alternative Dispute Resolution

Reasons to Reach Settlement

Reasons to Go to Trial

Jury Awards and Settlements

Emergency Medical Services

Law and Medicine Resources