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Can EMTs and Paramedics Bear Liability for Medical Malpractice in Florida?
Medical errors by physicians, nurses, emergency medical technicians (EMTs), paramedics, and other health workers can wreak physical, mental, and financial havoc. Misdiagnoses, poor techniques, and omissions by the first responders can deprive patients of life-saving treatments or prevent patients from an adequate recovery.
As with victims of personal injuries from negligent acts in general, patients injured by careless EMTs and paramedics may incur significant pain and suffering, lost wages, lost earning capacity, mounting medical bills, and expenses for future treatments and therapies. Medical mistakes can even give rise to wrongful death claims.
The Meaning of Malpractice
A Florida medical malpractice lawyer seeks to prove that a professional such as an EMT or paramedic acted negligently in responding to, treating, or transporting you or a loved one. In malpractice cases, a professional commits negligence by failing to meet the standard of care expected of the professional under the circumstances. The community of practice determines to a major extent the standard of care that the EMT or paramedic must meet.
Communities with lesser technology, equipment, or resources may mean medical professionals may be held to a less stringent standard than in places with considerably more medical technology, automation, or vehicles. Even so, many procedures or treatments performed by EMTs and paramedics normally are commonplace such that the standard does not vary by community.
The Kinds of Acts Constituting Malpractice
EMTs and paramedics can face responsibility for medical malpractice in Florida for undue or unreasonable delay in responding to a patient or transporting the patient to the hospital. Liability may arise if the crew does not take you to the nearest hospital able or appropriate to treat you or does not take a reasonably direct or quick route to the emergency room. Delays may arise from the drivers’ going to the wrong location, not having the ambulance properly maintained, or otherwise not being ready for travel. A Florida medical malpractice lawyer looks for evidence such as the time between dispatch and departure from the base and between dispatch and arrival at the scene of the emergency.
In more egregious cases, a Florida medical malpractice lawyer may pursue discrimination, gross negligence, or intentional misconduct claims. Evidence that the EMT or paramedic avoided a particular location might constitute some evidence of racial discrimination. To that end, the pursuit of a claim may uncover a practice or policy of the ambulance company or emergency management agency of refusing to respond in particular areas because of the patient’s race or the racial makeup of the neighborhood.
Call records from the EMS or ambulance company could reveal ill-will towards the victim because of race, gender, sexual orientation, or other characteristics. These could support separate civil rights claims or serve as evidence of the gross negligence or willful neglect of patients.
2. Not Getting Vitals
Generally, an EMT or paramedic must obtain blood pressure, heart rate, or oxygen levels upon arrival at a crash scene or other emergency scenarios. Emergency responders who fail to accurately or adequately observe or record their observations of the patient deny nurses, physicians, and other health professionals the necessary information for a proper diagnosis and course of treatment.
3. Negligent Handling and Treatment
EMTs and paramedics who fail to determine if the patient is breathing is not only a failure to observe but may lead the responder to commit malpractice in treatment. Specifically, responsibility for medical malpractice in Florida arises in such a case from failure to perform CPR or apply oxygen or other assisted breathing measures. You may have a claim if a paramedic failed to properly bandage or clean wounds. Negligently carrying or lifting certain patients or not stabilizing them, especially in a crash or traumatic event, may cause paralysis, fractures, or further aggravation of fractures.
4. Lack of Informed Consent
A Florida medical malpractice lawyer also handles claims that an EMT or paramedic performed medical treatment without your permission. The principle of informed consent in advance of treatment means not only that the medical provider has obtained your permission, but that the provider told you the risks of receiving the treatment in advance of your consent.
Given the often emergency scenarios that involve EMTs and paramedics, informed consent may prove impractical or impossible to obtain. To that end, Florida law excuses these first responders from the duty to obtain informed consent if you are intoxicated or otherwise under the influence of drugs, you are experiencing an emergency, or the circumstances justified a conclusion that you would have consented to the treatment if consulted.
The Parties to the Suit
The primary actors — the EMT or paramedics –face responsibility for medical malpractice in Florida for negligently responding to or treating you or your loved one. However, unlike medical malpractice cases involving physicians, EMTs and paramedics are not self-employed and might not have professional malpractice insurance of their own.
To get at parties that would have insurance or other resources to pay your damages, a Florida medical malpractice lawyer looks to the ambulance company or government agency employing the EMT or paramedic. Lawsuits against these parties turn upon the principle of respondeat superior. This basis for vicarious liability holds the employer of the EMT or paramedic liable for malpractice based upon the employer-employee relationship.
If your claim arises against a government agency, you should be aware of caps on damages. That is, governments in Florida have waived sovereign immunity against lawsuits. In exchange for governments’ consent to be sued in court, you have limits on what you can recover for the negligence of EMTs and paramedics.
Proving the Malpractice Case
The subject matter of cases involving medical mistakes calls for expert testimony. Medical experts help you establish that the EMT or paramedic fell short of the standard of care and that the negligence caused the damages you suffered. From the medical records of both the paramedics and the emergency rooms, the experts can glean and describe the course of treatments, response times, and your condition at the onset of the emergency and at other relevant times.
With expert testimony, a Florida medical malpractice lawyer can show how lost time or neglect and improper actions may have caused or exacerbated a medical condition, disabilities that limit or eliminate your ability to work or engage in daily activities of life, or even death.