Evaluating a personal injury is certainly a difficult task, and yet it is what juries across America are asked to do every day. The woman who suffered the horrific injury described in this article certainly deserves compensation, yet there are various laws in place that restrict her ability to make a financial recovery. Those who hold the opinion that all personal injury cases are “frivolous” frequently change their opinion when faced with the logic of such a victim not being compensated for her injuries, particularly when she was not at fault in any way, or when an injury strikes close to home. By way of example, former Pennsylvania Congressman, Senator, and Presidential candidate Rick Santorum, a proponent of tort reform, was a plaintiff in a medical malpractice lawsuit brought by his wife.
As to the drunk jumping out of the ambulance, I do not hold the opinion that he should be precluded from bringing a tort claim. In reality, medical personnel frequently have to deal with irrational behavior, and thus the EMT in the fact scenario described in the article should have foreseen the actions of the “jumping drunk.” Standard of care probably would have been to use restraints. Nevertheless, tort law throughout the country has severely restricted the accident victim’s right to recovery over the past 60 years or so. In Pennsylvania, for instance, Emergence Medical Technicians are immune from liability unless their conduct was intentional. If the EMT fails to restrain someone that he/she should have foreseen would exit a moving ambulance, this would equate to negligence, but the EMT would be immune from liability because his/her conduct would not have been intentional. This law is designed to protect the EMT.
Moreover, even if Pennsylvania did not have an immunity statute protecting EMT’s, the plaintiff’s lawyer representing the “jumping drunk” would have to prove a medical malpractice case. Tort law protections beneficial for medical professionals have expanded in the last 20 years requiring, by way of example, certificates of merit before suit can be filed. Venue requirements as to where a suit can be filed have also become more restrictive, all to the benefit of medical professionals. These kinds of limitations are in place in most states, including New York. So too, the defenses of comparative negligence and contributory negligence would also apply likely preventing this case from moving forward.
So, whether or not a state has caps on damage, bringing a tort claim and getting full value for your client’s injury case is no easy task in this day and age.
Stuart A. Carpey, who has been practicing as an attorney since 1987, focuses his practice on complex civil litigation which includes representing injured individuals in a vast array of personal injury cases.