Losing a loved one in a medical emergency is a traumatizing experience. But it can be even worse if you believe their death may have happened under wrongful circumstances.
Wrongful death cases can happen at many points in the medical process, but if your loved one died in an ambulance on the way to the hospital, it can make the situation more confusing. Read on to learn about wrongful death in an ambulance and how to tell if you have a case.
When you seek the help of medical professionals, you have a legal right to trust that they’re going to do their jobs well. If they don’t, either because of negligence or malicious intent, and someone dies, that person’s family has the right to sue that professional for wrongful death. There can be a number of circumstances that lead to a wrongful death charge.
If a doctor fails to diagnose or misdiagnoses a fatal problem, they can face wrongful death charges. Surgical mistakes, anesthesia errors, and birth injuries also make the list, as well as medicine and emergency room errors. Any situation in which a person causes another person’s death through a wrongful act, fault, or omission is eligible for a wrongful death lawsuit.
It is also important to note that wrongful death suits are not exclusive to members of the medical community. Anyone who causes the death of another person through wrongful action, fault, or omission could be sued for this. If you’re thinking this sounds similar to manslaughter, the two cases are somewhat similar.
The primary difference between a wrongful death case and a manslaughter case is that wrongful death is a civil suit, while manslaughter is criminal. The state files manslaughter cases, while survivors of the victim file wrongful death suits. And while manslaughter focuses on punishing the perpetrator, wrongful death suits focus on compensating the survivors.
In the case of a wrongful death suit, one person usually acts as the representative for all the loved ones of the victim. This person, often the spouse or next of kin, will file the suit and be responsible for pursuing it. This person, the plaintiff, will carry the burden of proof for the case.
In order for a wrongful death case to be successful, the plaintiff must prove three things. First, that the defendant – in the case of an ambulance death, the EMT – owed the victim a duty of care; second, that the defendant’s actions or lack thereof were the specific cause of the victim’s death; and third, that the victim’s death has caused the damages the plaintiff is suing for. In a successful case, the plaintiff will receive an amount of money to cover a variety of costs, including loss of love and companionship.
One of the primary requirements for a wrongful death suit is that the defendant owed the victim a duty of care. So let’s talk about how ambulance services work and what the EMTs owe you as their patient.
EMTs and paramedics are responsible for immediately checking the patient for any life-threatening medical conditions. They have to administer any medication, oxygen, IV, or other treatment needed in a timely manner. They also have to treat the patient’s symptoms based on their medical training.
Once they get ready to leave the scene of the emergency, EMTs must prepare the patient for safe transportation to a hospital, and they must take that patient to the nearest emergency room. During that transportation, they are responsible for that patient’s total care until they reach the hospital. They are not duty-bound to provide a diagnosis or to continue treatment once the patient reaches the hospital.
One of the big questions in determining if a wrongful death suit should be filed against an EMT or not is who is liable for the victim’s death. Liability is a way to determine who is specifically to blame. Depending on the circumstances, the EMT, a hospital employee, or the ambulance company may be liable in a wrongful death suit.
If an EMT tried to diagnose or treat a problem beyond their scope, failed to administer a treatment, or administered a treatment wrong, they could be liable. Their company may also be liable for their employee’s actions. If a hospital worker rode in the ambulance to the scene and their actions caused the death, that worker or their hospital could be liable.
There are all sorts of situations that could lead to wrongful death in an ambulance. One of the most common is a car crash. If the ambulance crashes and your loved one is killed in the crash, the driver may be found liable since part of their duty is to provide safe transportation.
Errors in administering medications or not asking what medications a victim was on can cause wrongful death. If an EMT tried to diagnose the victim and treat based on that diagnosis, that can violate their duty of care. And if an EMT fails to communicate something about the patient to the hospital staff when they arrive there and that causes the victim’s death, that could be a case of wrongful death.
So if you feel your loved one’s death may be eligible for a wrongful death suit, what can you do? The first thing is to contact a lawyer who works with these cases and get their opinion on your situation. These cases are difficult to win, so you’ll want someone with experience.
Gather as much evidence about the case as you can. EMTs often protect their own, and there are usually no other witnesses in an ambulance, so this may be difficult. But any evidence that you and your lawyer can gather will be critical to a successful case.
Losing a loved one is hard enough, but if you think they may have suffered a wrongful death, it makes everything worse. Getting help pursuing a wrongful death lawsuit can be a way for you and your family to find peace.