Can EMTs and Paramedics Be Liable for Medical Malpractice?August 23, 2022
Emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics serve as first responders. Their role is to provide quick, urgent medical care during a health crisis. This prompt treatment can make the difference between a full recovery and a tragedy.
Not every patient makes a full recovery. Sometimes their health crisis is too severe for medical professionals to prevent permanent physical impairment or death. In other situations, poor outcomes may be a result of substandard treatment, or none at all. When procuring care, medical malpractice can happen at any time. Among the professionals who may have a role are EMTs and paramedics.
There are situations in which health care professionals, including EMTs and paramedics, are immune from liability. This is to protect them from lawsuits when they dispense a medical standard of care. In cases in which they have breached duty of care, they may face malpractice claims.
What Does “Medical Standard of Care” Mean?
In regard to medical malpractice, negligence is a health care professional not administering the medical standard of care that applies to the situation. The legal definition of standard of care varies by state. It typically refers to the service a skilled and trained medical professional would administer under similar circumstances.
As an example, suppose there are 10 EMTs. Nine of them would diagnose and treat a patient for a broken ankle. The 10th EMT treats the patient for a sprain instead. That 10th EMT would not be giving the standard of care and may be liable for negligence.
What Kind of Damages Can I Claim as Medical Malpractice?
In Maryland, a person can file a malpractice claim are if there has been negligence. However, negligence qualifies as malpractice only if it leads to injury. If a paramedic ignores a cut that heals on its own, it does not qualify as malpractice. Should the same cut develop an infection that requires a long hospital stay, that is malpractice. Specific types of negligence include gross and willful.
Gross negligence. If negligence is not meeting the medical standard of care, gross negligence is an extreme failure. This massive disregard of the EMT or paramedic’s responsibilities to the patient may aggravate the patient’s health crisis. To revisit the broken ankle example, gross negligence could be overlooking the leg in favor of a scratch, leading to greater bone damage. If a patient can prove gross negligence has occurred, they may receive greater compensation as a result.
Willful negligence. This type of negligence is when a professional is able to give care. They instead withhold treatment for discriminatory reasons, such as gender or race. This type of negligence is difficult to prove. The injured party must present evidence of the EMT’s mindset and a conscious choice to withhold treatment. When this type of neglect happens, it is important to hire a malpractice lawyer who can strengthen your claim.
What Do Maryland’s Laws Say About Liability?
Section 5-603(a) of the state’s Good Samaritan Act says a person: Is not civilly liable for any act or omission in giving any assistance or medical care, if: (1) The act or omission is not one of gross negligence; (2) The assistance or medical care is provided without fee or other compensation; and (3) The assistance or medical care is provided: (i) At the scene of an emergency; (ii) In transit to a medical facility; or (iii) Through communications with personnel providing emergency assistance.
Section 5-603(b) of the Good Samaritan Act elaborates, saying the immunity provided in subsection (a) of the statute applies to several categories of people, including: “[a] member of any State, county, municipal, or volunteer fire department, ambulance and rescue squad, or law enforcement agency, the National Ski Patrol System, or a corporate fire department responding to a call outside of its corporate premises, if the member [satisfies other conditions.]” are among the people not to be held liable.
Another law, the Fire & Rescue Companies Act, states in Section 5-604[(a)]: Notwithstanding any other provision of law, except for any willful or grossly negligent act, a fire company or rescue company, and the personnel of a fire company or rescue company, are immune from civil liability for any act or omission in the course of performing their duties.
When dispensing emergency care, EMTs and paramedics can be held responsible only under certain circumstances, including gross or willful negligence. Understanding the finer details of these and related laws can be challenging for a layperson. By hiring an attorney experienced in malpractice law, you will have someone able to interpret complex legal language. They will also assist you with building your case and help you get the compensation for which you are entitled.
How Do I Build a Malpractice Case?
An important step in building your case is hiring a lawyer experienced in the state’s malpractice law. They can assist you in collecting evidence such as arranging time with a doctor who can review your medical records. A seasoned lawyer can also inform you of the types of documentation you need to build your case and help you collect and file such documentation.
One of the requirements of filing a malpractice claim in Maryland is the certificate of qualified expert. In this medical report, the qualified expert confirms the injury you have suffered is due to health professionals breaching the standard of care. This certificate must be submitted within 90 days of your malpractice claim.
There are four other points that will strengthen your claim. One is to identify the EMTs or paramedics who treated you. During a health crisis, you may have matters on your mind other than who is attending to you. However, it is important to establish who directly administered your care and that there was a medical provider-patient relationship.
Two other elements include ascertaining you had not received a medical standard of care.
This involves establishing what standard treatment is for your health crisis, such as receiving fluids for dehydration. Another is affirming substandard care and negligence occurred. Using the dehydration example, this would be presenting evidence of not getting enough liquid or receiving a fluid-depleting medication.
The fourth point is proving harm occurred as a result of the malpractice. This can mean aggravating the health crisis, resulting in the need for more medical care or permanent injury. Other forms of harm may not be physical, such as larger medical bills from needing to treat complications caused by negligence. Lost wages from being too impaired to work may also qualify as harm.
Is There a Statute of Limitations in Maryland for Malpractice Claims?
In general, Maryland allows five years after the incident to file a medical malpractice claim. There are exceptions, such as for patients who experienced malpractice when they are minors. Their time frame begins when they turn 18. They have five years, or until they reach age 23, to file a malpractice claim.
Another exception is noticing the malpractice after the fact. If harm caused by an EMT or paramedic’s negligence is apparent only at a later time, the patient has three years after discovery to file. Other instances in which the time limit differs is when malpractice leads to a wrongful death, which is also three years. Federally funded medical centers also have a different statute of limitations.
Baltimore Medical Malpractice Lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton Represent Patients Harmed from Medical Malpractice
If you or a loved one received inadequate from an EMT or paramedic, resulting in injury, the Baltimore medical malpractice lawyers at LeViness, Tolzman & Hamilton will advocate for you. Our legal team will carefully investigate your case and hold medical professionals and systems accountable. We are dedicated to protecting our clients throughout the legal process and will fight to secure the compensation for which you are entitled. Call us today at 800-547-4LAW (4529) or contact us online to schedule a free consultation.
We have offices in Baltimore, Glen Burnie, and Prince George’s County, allowing us to represent clients in Maryland, including those in Anne Arundel County, Carroll County, Harford County, Howard County, Montgomery County, Prince George’s County, Queen Anne’s County, Maryland’s Western Counties, Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore, as well as the communities of Catonsville, Essex, Halethorpe, Middle River, Rosedale, Gwynn Oak, Brooklandville, Dundalk, Pikesville, Parkville, Nottingham, Windsor Mill, Lutherville, Timonium, Sparrows Point, Ridgewood, and Elkridge.