Can I be held liable for what my partner does (or doesn’t do)?
Yes. In many, if not most, cases the law recognizes the skill level of each provider on a given scene, thus each provider is expected to act and react in a manner appropriate for that particular level and duty of care.
Can EMS providers talk about EMS via social media?
Of course! However, the laws which govern patient privacy and agency confidentiality apply on and off duty.
Is it legal for bystanders to photograph or video calls we go on?
Yes. There is no expectation of privacy in public, therefore members of the public can video record and photograph your calls that are in public. However, with very few, very specific exceptions, federal, state, and local laws strictly prohibit EMS providers from video recording or photographing calls to which they respond.
Can providers use lights and sirens any time we want?
No. Emergency transportation is intended to be exactly that: Emergency. When the patient’s condition or external factors directly related to the patient’s condition are such that minutes or seconds may mean the loss of life or limb, then logic dictates that lights and sirens are appropriate. However, driving “emergency” because your bladder is full or the patient smells horrible or the big game is on will never carry the day and the liability for damages that result will be all yours.
Why is it so important to complete documentation BEFORE leaving the hospital?
You have to remember that the primary purpose of pre-hospital documentation for patients who are transported is “continuity of care”. After you drop the patient at the hospital and leave, your documentation is really all that remains to let the ER staff know what did and didn’t happen prior to the patient’s arrival. Documentation completed later is essentially useless in terms of ongoing care.
Can I get sued for helping someone when I’m off duty?
Once again, the rules may vary from state to state and anyone can pretty much be sued for anything in today’s age. However, there is some added protection in jurisdictions that employ a so-called “Good Samaritan” law. Generally, one who acts in good faith and without gross negligence and not for compensation cannot be held liable for damages arising out of rendering aid at the scene of an emergency. Laws are different in each state. To be sure, check the laws and local rules where you live.
Can I be liable for NOT stopping to help when I’m off duty?
Generally speaking, one cannot be held liable for not rendering aid off duty. However, there are exceptions. For example, if you set in motion the series of events that led to the harm, you have a duty to act. If there is a special relationship, such as parent-child, spousal, or custody (to name just a few), there is a duty to act. If you are in a marked agency vehicle, there may be a duty. Laws are different in each state. To be sure, check the laws and local rules where you live.
Can I get in trouble for talking about calls I have run?
Yes and no. Generally, you can share “war stories” all day long, provided that nobody knows or could possibly know who you are talking about. On the other hand, local, state, and federal laws take violating patient confidentiality very seriously. If you do, you can expect to lose your license to practice as well as a myriad of other very expensive and painful consequences.
RE: EPCR – Will empty data fields with a good narrative create legal liability?
The shortest, simplest answer is YES. There are risks any time an available piece if information is missing. Check-boxes, drop-menus, narratives, etc all work together to present a clear and complete picture. Missing information is a perfect target for an attorney to attack your skills and your care. – This question came through the website from an EMS provider.
RE: EPCR – If the narrative conflicts with data from a drop down field, is that a liability?
Again, the simplest answer is YES. While the conflict itself does not necessarily create the liability, the conflict creates an opening to show liability. Attorneys are trained to spot and exploit inconsistencies. Conflicting information on a PCR is another easy target. – This question came through the website from a provider.
Will having a bad narrative be a liability to the provider?
YES!! YES!! A thousand times YES!!!
The narrative portion of the patient care report is where most readers focus. Whether it’s the receiving hospital staff, law enforcement investigators, or lawyers, judges, and juries, you WILL be judged more by your narrative than anything else. – This question came through the website from a provider.
Is it legal to voice record an ambulance call without the pt being aware?
That is a VERY tricky question because privacy laws vary from state to state.
Generally, where there is no expectation of privacy, voice recording (like photography) is lawful. For example, there is no expectation of privacy out in public.
However, be aware that throughout the provider-patient relationship, regardless of where that may be, there is an expectation that all information shall be held strictly confidential unless otherwise specified by law. If such a recording should ever be revealed beyond the immediate or direct provision of patient care, the person responsible for making the recording can be subject to very, VERY harsh penalties.