Case Example: Patient Injured in Ambulance Accident

A vehicle accident further injures a woman on the way to the hospital. See who is liable for injuries caused by ambulance crashes.

This is a fictional case study drawn from the fact patterns in actual emergency vehicle accident cases.

Our study deals with an ambulance collision that further injured an already helpless and fragile victim.

This case study is for educational purposes only. It is based on actual events, although names have been changed to protect those involved. Any resemblance to real persons or entities is purely coincidental.

We’ll discuss how the crash occurred, liability, injuries, negotiations, and the final claim resolution. We wrap up with a list of key points you should know about ambulance accident claims.

The Patient and the Ambulance Accident

Esther Lee was a frail 90-year-old woman who lived with her daughter. When family members realized Mrs. Lee was having a stroke, they immediately called 911.

Within minutes, the ambulance arrived. The emergency medical technicians placed Esther on a gurney and loaded the gurney into the ambulance.

In the ambulance, they failed to secure Mrs. Lee to the gurney and failed to lock the gurney into place inside the ambulance. While driving over the speed limit with emergency lights and sirens sounding, the ambulance hit a car at an intersection.

The collision’s impact caused the gurney to bounce against the inside of the ambulance, knocking Mrs. Lee to the floor. A piece of medical equipment also fell from the wall hitting Mrs. Lee in the head.

A second ambulance came to the accident scene to take Mrs. Lee to the emergency room. Immediate treatment is critical for stroke patients, and the vehicle accident caused a severe delay in treatment for Mrs. Lee.

Damages and Liability

Mrs. Lee had a pre-existing medical emergency, and therefore she was in a fragile state. The law does not recognize the fragility of Mrs. Lee, however.

The law requires us to take the plaintiff as we find them. If Mrs. Lee’s condition rendered her more susceptible to injury due to age, fragility, stroke, or any other physical condition, this would not limit the at-fault parties’ liability.

Mrs. Lee had a cerebral hematoma from the blow to her head in the crash, as well as widespread bruising from hitting the floor. Her stroke treatment was also delayed, which caused more bleeding to the brain and temporary paralysis to her left side. This might have been remedied had they arrived at the emergency room sooner.

She also endured the emotional suffering of being fully coherent but unable to escape from inside an ambulance in a violent collision that tossed her about its interior.

Typically, there is state immunity granted to emergency personnel for ambulance accidents like this. However, when they perform their duties negligently, they are liable.

The emergency medical technicians were negligent for failing to:

  • Properly belt Mrs. Lee to the gurney
  • Lock the gurney into place within the ambulance
  • Secure other emergency equipment inside the ambulance before transporting a patient

As their employer, the ambulance service is responsible for its employees’ negligence and may be negligent for not training the technicians properly.

The other vehicle’s driver in the collision is also at-fault and liable for Mrs. Lee’s injuries for failing to yield the right-of-way to an emergency vehicle.

Negotiations and Settlement

Mrs. Lee’s daughter arranged for an injury attorney to handle Mrs. Lee’s injury claims. The attorney lost no time putting both insurance companies on notice of Mrs. Lee’s injury claims.

Mrs. Lee’s medical bills totaled $65,000 for her emergency care, the treatment of contusions and bruises from the accident, stroke treatment, and weeks of inpatient rehabilitation.

Her attorney calculated her damages at $150,000 for her accident injuries, the more extensive stroke damage caused by the delay in treatment, and her pain and suffering.

Mrs. Lee’s attorney made it clear to both carriers that they were prepared to go to trial, and any jury would be very sympathetic to Mrs. Lee’s claims.

The at-fault driver’s auto insurance company tendered the $50,000 per-person bodily injury policy limits.

The ambulance company’s commercial policy had $1 million in liability limits. Rather than risk incurring punitive damages in a jury trial, it didn’t take long for the commercial insurance carrier to offer a $100,000 settlement to Mrs. Lee.

Medicare had covered a large portion of Mrs. Lee’s medical bills, so Medicare had a right to recover their costs from Mrs. Lee’s settlement. Her attorney was able to negotiate a significant reduction to the medical liens so that Mrs. Lee could retain more compensation.

Key Points About Ambulance Accidents

Charles R. Gueli, Esq. is a personal injury attorney with over 20 years of legal experience. He’s admitted to the NY State Bar, and been named a Super Lawyer for the NY Metro area, an exclusive honor awarded to the top five percent of attorneys. Charles has worked extensively in the areas of auto accidents,... Read More >>