Possible Patient Injuries during Transportation

A number of elderly and disabled people and medical patients use medical transport services to be transported from their homes or nursing homes to a dialysis clinic, or doctor’s office, for outpatient treatment or to a hospital. Surprisingly, a number of such passengers are injured in the course of transportation. Injuries are often caused because of negligence on the part of the transport company in improperly securing the patient or leaving the patient unattended.

Most common examples of these medical transport injuries are slip and fall accidents, injuries while getting in and out of a medical transport vehicle, accidents in transit because the patient has not been properly secured, wheelchair accidents, and accidents on sidewalks, in parking lots in elevators, hospitals, medical offices and nursing homes.

What is the responsibility of the medical transport company?
A medical transport company is a business which advertises the services it provides for payment, in transporting the general public between their homes and medical facilities. So, in actual fact a medical transport company is a ‘common carrier’ in law. In most states a company which carries persons for reward is obliged to use utmost care and diligence in assuring safe passage, and must provide all that is necessary to ensure this. In addition the carrier has to exercise and demonstrate a reasonable degree of skill. The State of California in its Book of Standard Civil Jury Instructions is very explicit in spelling out the duty of care that common carriers must apply. Reading on, you’ll know why choosing the services of a reputed medical transport company is crucial, and what is in stake.

Types of patient injuries
Patient injuries can take other forms. Take for instance the East Pittsburgh woman who filed an injury lawsuit in December of 2010. She was injured while being transported back from hospital after having a cast removed. In this accident one of the paramedics fell on her which carrying her up the stairs to her home. As a result of the fall her femur was shattered, and to repair it she had to undergo surgery. She filed a lawsuit claiming damages in excess of $25,000from the ambulance service she had hired.

Slip and fall accidents often take place in parking lots, on sidewalks and on wheelchair ramps resulting in patient injuries. Slip and falls are the leading cause of injury accidents.

Wheelchair lifts on transportation vehicles are designed as an aid to handicapped, disabled or indisposed patients on regular or powered wheelchairs when getting in and out of transport vehicles. However sometimes lift devices could be defective resulting in serious injuries and bodily harm to users. Common injuries resulting from defective wheelchair lifts include:
  • Falls because of which the wheelchair passenger sustains broken or fractured bones
  • Facial lacerations
  • Head injuries which could be serious
  • Injury to the spinal cord
  • Broken nose
  • Amputations
  • Traumatic brain injuries
  • Neck and back injuries
Some of the main causes of wheelchair lift accidents are:
  • Poor maintenance
  • Wet or slippery surfaces
  • Defective machinery
  • Oily lift surface
  • Defective design
  • Improper installation
  • Lack of care and negligent handling by the driver
  • Improper use
  • Improperly securing the wheelchair during operation
  • Defect in roll stop latch
Improperly secured patient. Frequently accidents take place resulting in serious patient injury because a patient has not been properly secured while being transported. As a consequence the patient has fallen when a vehicle has had to suddenly brake or when taking a turn. Accidents of this nature often result in:
  • Broken bones
  • Lacerations
  • Brain and spinal cord injuries
  • Organ damage

How to Decide If You Need To Call an Ambulance or Emergency Medical Transportation

When you believe you or someone else is experiencing a medical emergency, you need an ambulance or emergency medical transportation to transport you or the person needing immediate medical care to the nearest hospital or emergency room.

But pause for a moment to consider the implications. Even if you are covered by health insurance, the co-payments and deductible is a formidable figure. So before you reach out for your phone, consider carefully whether your situation is so critical that you really need emergency medical transportation.

An ambulance ride is expensive, more expensive than you might have imagined. Just to give you an example, the Mayor of NYC in his 2011 report said that the average ambulance ride costs $1,099, a tab picked up by the taxpayer.

What alternatives do you have?

The first thing you can do is to call your doctor. If you have no one to drive you, call a cab. Unless it’s absolutely essential, don’t call 911.

Just in case you are not familiar with various medical emergencies, here are a few points on two of the most common conditions to help you decide whether or not you need emergency transportation. Of course there are other emergency situations which merit an ambulance, like a drug or alcohol overdose and of course serious domestic accidents, but these are exceptions rather than the rule. And of course people involved in motor vehicle accidents often need emergency medical transportation.

1. Possible heart attack
Symptoms of a possible heart attack which merit an ambulance or emergency medical transportation:
  • Chest pain
  • Pain which radiates to the neck, jaw or arms
  • A feeling of sickness and sweating along with your chest pain
  • Shortness of breath accompanied by chest pain
Symptoms are different in different people. Here are some other symptoms which should be viewed seriously
  • A feeling of heaviness in the chest with maybe a dull ache or pain
  • A feeling of being unwell because of chest discomfort
  • The pain in your chest spreads to your stomach or back
  • A chest pain which feels like an acute bout of indigestion
  • A dizzy or lightheaded feeling accompanied with chest pain
2. Possible stroke
Are you or someone having or about to have a stroke? Here are some typical symptoms which you should know about:
  • You are unable to smile because of facial weakness. Is your mouth or eye drooping?
  • Can you raise both arms or are you too weak to do so?
  • Are you having difficulty in speaking and articulating? Can you express yourself so others can understand you or are you slurring?
If you’ve answered no to any of the above, then chances are that you are not having an emergency. Are you feeling well enough to travel by car or cab? It might just be the preferred alternative.

And when you know you’re not in an emergency situation but still are in need of a safe medical transportation, it is always advisable not to get caught into anxieties, but to make use of non-emergency medical transportation facilities which provide the same level of safety and comfort.

What if it is an emergency?

In an emergency situation you have no option but to call 911 or private emergency medical transportation. Stay calm, or keep the patient calm while you wait for the emergency transport to arrive. Give precise instructions of where the vehicle is to come to minimize delay. If it is in fact an emergency every second counts. You need to know the exact address and it helps if you add some landmarks to help the driver. Remember most people today use cell phones or Internet based Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) so your precise location is difficult to determine.