Paramedics and ambulance staff are often first on scene in medical emergencies. The standard of care they deliver, and how quickly they arrive to deliver it, can be critical to the survival of patients. However, the pressure placed on paramedics and ambulance staff can increase the chance of a mistake, resulting in the need for an ambulance claim.
Common reasons for ambulance service claims
Paramedics can attend a variety of situations in a single shift. They need a broad range of medical knowledge to provide appropriate care in each scenario. However, mistakes can happen.
There are several potential reasons for someone to raise an ambulance service and/or paramedic claim.
Delays in ambulance arrival or treatment
Triage is the process of prioritising medical issues. If an incident is miscategorised as a low priority, an ambulance delay can occur, potentially harming the patient.
Inaccurate recording of patient or incident details can result in paramedics arriving at an emergency unprepared, without the right equipment or unable to provide appropriate treatment. If the patient is harmed due to these errors, it could constitute negligence on the part of the ambulance service.
Can you sue for an ambulance taking too long?
Ambulances should attend medical emergencies as quickly as possible, providing immediate care and transportation to hospital, where treatment can continue. When delays negatively impact patient safety and recovery, it may be classed as medical negligence.
Where no obvious error occurs in recording or categorising the patient’s condition, ambulance delays may be the result of broader system issues, such as understaffing. However, these situations may still justify a negligence claim.
Paramedic negligence cases
Ambulance service claims and paramedic negligence cases can both arise within one incident. However, the extent of their responsibility will differ based on how the negligence occurred and by whom.
If adequate training was given, the correct equipment available, and details of the patient’s symptoms accurately relayed, the negligence may have been the result of the paramedic’s actions. Excessive use of force or dropping a patient during transfers could also constitute negligence.
If a patient was dropped due to ambulance equipment malfunction, an individual may not be held responsible, but the wider service could be.
Misdiagnosis or incorrect treatment
An incorrect diagnosis by a first responder can seriously harm patients. For example, if the wrong treatment or medication is administered, there is potential to prolong patient suffering and cause further harm.
A paramedic’s misdiagnosis could extend the time until a patient receives effective treatment. For conditions such as a stroke, outcomes worsen the longer treatment is postponed, significantly affecting recovery.
Negligent ambulance driving
Should the way an ambulance is driven cause the patient to suffer, worsen their existing condition, or even cause a new injury, this can also be cause for a negligence claim.
Mistakes made when treating complex issues
Symptoms and appropriate treatment for some medical conditions will differ between an adult and a child. If attending staff are inexperienced with paediatric medical emergencies, training might be incorrectly recalled, misdiagnosis could occur, or harm could come to the child during treatment.
Mental health crises can also give rise to issues which are complicated to treat. As individual cases vary, the appropriate response and course of action can be hard to determine and/or implement, especially under pressure. This can increase the chances of mistakes being made.
When are you not entitled to claim against an ambulance service?
For clinical negligence to have occurred, the standard of care must have fallen below a reasonable level and harmed the patient as a result. These conditions must be met to be eligible to claim compensation for medical negligence.
During the course of a serious medical emergency, a patient may endure pain and suffering. However, the fact that they experienced pain and suffering does not necessarily mean the treatment received was negligent.
Ambulance service claims may be invalid where:
- The issue was accurately deemed a lower priority during triage, increasing the wait time for an ambulance. Existing pain, if not considerably worsened by the wait, may not qualify.
- Life-saving treatment necessitated pain and suffering. CPR can damage or even break ribs. If treatment was carried out correctly in order to preserve life, it may not be cause for a claim.
- Correct advice or treatment offered by paramedics or attending medical staff was ignored by the patient.
Should you sue the NHS for negligence?
Though some people are reluctant to claim against the NHS, however medical negligence claims are not only about monetary compensation. Claiming for negligence holds those at fault to account and encourages higher standards of care in the future.
How to make an ambulance service compensation claim
It’s not always clear whether negligence occurred, so you should try to seek advice from an experienced clinical negligence solicitor. They can help you determine whether you have a case, and then use their knowledge and expertise to represent you in a compensation claim.
At Devonshires Claims, our team of experienced clinical negligence solicitors are ready to assist you. We are committed to representing clients on a ‘no-win, no-fee’ basis, ensuring the cost of bringing a claim is minimised for you.