Can Wrongful Death Occur in the Ambulance?

When a medical professional fails to uphold the standards of care in the industry, wrongful death can occur. When one thinks of fatal medical malpractice, the most obvious settings are probably hospitals, emergency rooms, or operating tables. Most people do not assume emergency medical technicians (EMTs) and paramedics in ambulances could be guilty of malpractice. Unfortunately, wrongful death can in fact occur before a patient ever sets foot in a hospital.

What Is Wrongful Death?

According to Tennessee Code Section 20-5-113, wrongful death occurs if someone else’s wrongful act, fault, or omission causes another person’s death. In these situations, surviving family members may have the right to recover financially for physical and mental suffering, loss of time, and reasonable expenses the victim suffered from the personal injuries. Wrongful death is a serious tragedy that can occur in many different medical malpractice circumstances.

  • Failure to diagnose
  • Misdiagnosis
  • Surgical mistake
  • Anesthesia error
  • Birth injury
  • Medication mistake
  • Emergency room error

Wrongful death can occur in an ambulance if an EMT, paramedic, or another party involved in the care or transport of the patient makes a negligent mistake that someone else would not have made in the same circumstances. For example, if the EMT negligently fails to check for life-threatening injuries, or a paramedic administers the wrong dosage of a medication, and this causes the death of the patient, the surviving family members may have a wrongful death case.

What Duties to EMTs and Paramedics Owe Patients in Ambulances?

Finding out if your family has grounds for a wrongful death claim after the unexpected passing of a loved one while in the back of an ambulance takes understanding what duties and standards of care the healthcare professionals owed your family member. You must understand what duties they owed your loved one so you can identify any breaches of duty. EMTs and paramedics owe many duties to patients according to the expectations of the medical industry.

  • Check immediately for life-threatening medical conditions
  • Administer an IV, medication, oxygen, or other remedies in a timely manner
  • Treat symptoms based on medical training
  • Prepare a patient for safe transport to the hospital
  • Immediately transport a patient to the closest emergency room
  • Manage a patient’s total care until the ambulance reaches the hospital

Any professionals in the ambulance would not owe a duty to diagnose your loved one. This will be the physician’s job once the patient reaches the hospital. However, first responders do owe a duty to carry out the responsibilities of their jobs with as much care and attention as possible. Making negligent errors – even if the paramedic had good intentions – could have caused the wrongful death of a family member.

Who Is Liable?

Wrongful death can occur in an ambulance if a medical professional makes a medication error, tries to diagnose and treat injuries beyond those that are life threatening, or miscommunicates with the hospital. It could also occur if the ambulance gets into an auto accident. Ambulance accidents are uncommon, but not impossible. Identifying the liable party for your loved one’s unexpected death may take an investigation of what happened before, during, and after the ambulance ride.

Ambulance companies may be private entities, or they may be extensions of the hospital. Similarly, those working in an ambulance may be independent contractors or employees of the hospital. Thus, many different parties could be legally responsible for causing your loved one’s wrongful death.

If an individual EMT or paramedic caused the death, he or she or the company the person works for may be liable. If the ambulance driver caused the death, the ambulance company may bear liability. If a hospital employee is at fault, the hospital may carry vicarious liability. Answering the liability question after an ambulance-related death often takes help from a lawyer.