EMTs are entrusted to care for critically ill or injured patients on the way to the hospital. When they fail to perform the necessary duties associated with their position and a patient dies, they can be held liable for damages via a wrongful death claim.
Examples of EMT Negligence
The most common examples of EMT negligence that could result in a wrongful death include:
An EMT may make decisions in the interest of arriving at the hospital more quickly, instead of avoiding a dangerous auto accident. If your loved one died as the result of injuries suffered in an ambulance crash or due to a crash-related delay in receiving care, this could be the basis of a wrongful death claim.
EMTs must relay vital medical information to hospital staff when they arrive. Failing to do so could result in improper care that leads to a wrongful death.
EMTs are allowed to administer pre-approved medications, but they need to check for potentially dangerous interactions before doing so. For example, nitroglycerin is commonly given to men experiencing cardiac pain but can cause a potentially fatal drop in blood pressure in a man taking Viagra.
Overstepping Job Duties
An EMT is not permitted to diagnose injuries or illnesses. He is only allowed to perform basic life-saving care on the way to the hospital. Delivering care beyond the scope of his training or expertise could be negligence if the care contributes to the patient's death.
Other examples of potential cases of EMT negligence include:
- Inadequately trained EMTs and those without the certification to perform their jobs
- Inadequately staffed ambulances
- Inadequately maintained ambulances that break down on the way to the hospital
- Accidentally leaving an ill or injured patient at the scene
- Failing to bring necessary medical equipment to the scene
- Failing to arrive at the scene in a timely fashion
- Failing to check airway, breathing, and/or circulation
Proving negligence will likely require the assistance of several medical experts. Since EMTs provide care to people who are severely ill or injured, you must be able to establish that the cause of your loved one's death was the EMT's actions and not the natural consequence of the medical condition that necessitated the ambulance call.
Filing a Wrongful Death Claim
EMTs are not personally liable for damages, but the ambulance companies, fire departments, hospital, or government employer may be liable in a wrongful death claim.
Under Louisiana law, only certain surviving family members have the standing necessary to file a wrongful death claim:
- The surviving spouse or children of the deceased person are first in line to file the claim.
- If the deceased had no surviving spouse or children, the surviving parent or parents can file the claim.
- If the deceased had no surviving spouse, children, or parents, the surviving siblings can file the claim.
- The surviving grandparents can file the claim if there is no surviving spouse, child, parent, or sibling to file.
- A representative from the estate can file the claim if there are no surviving family members with the necessary legal standing.
Damages Available in a Wrongful Death Claim
A wrongful death claim can seek compensation for:
- Medical care for the deceased up to the time of death
- Loss of the deceased person's future earnings to support the family
- Pain and suffering in the deceased person's final moments
- Loss of the deceased person's care and companionship
- Reasonable funeral and burial expenses
Protecting Your Right to Compensation
Wrongful death claims, like the vast majority of personal injury cases, are most often settled out of court. However, having an attorney to advocate for your right to a fair settlement is crucial. Insurance companies are concerned with their profit margins, not making sure you receive the funds you deserve for the loss of your loved one.
Neblett, Beard & Arsenault's dedicated legal team has extensive experience handling wrongful death claims, including those that are related to EMT negligence. Contact us online or call our office directly at 318.541.8188 to schedule a free, no-obligation initial case review to discuss your legal options.