A 3-year-old girl lay on the backseat floor of a wrecked Jeep Grand Cherokee for hours after an accident, bleeding from her brain while she went unnoticed by everyone around her.
Officials from three different agencies — the Texas Department of Public Safety, the local county sheriff’s office and the Odessa Fire Rescue squad — managed to overlook the child during their investigation of the accident. The intoxicated driver of the vehicle had been arrested, another injured child had been taken to a hospital and the Jeep had already been released to the towing company responsible for getting it off the road. It wasn’t until the tow truck driver got the Jeep all the way to the wrecking yard that the injured child was discovered.
While it’s probably far too early to tell exactly what damage, if any, this little girl will suffer as a result of her delayed care, it’s well-known that prompt treatment of brain injuries is the best hope for a positive patient outcome. The delay in the child’s care could very well end up leaving her with long-term damage that could have been lessened or avoided through quicker care.
When something like this happens, who is responsible? Obviously, the intoxicated driver bears some responsibility for the accident in the first place. But what about the various emergency medical response professionals who were called to the scene?
Most states have some form of an emergency medical services act — and Texas is no exception. These laws protect emergency medical providers from lawsuits where they fail to exercise a reasonable amount of care under the circumstances, and their ordinary negligence ends up causing or worsening someone’s injury.
However, these laws don’t give the emergency service providers blanket immunity for negligence. Instead, the laws simply raise the standard a bit on how negligence is defined for a successful lawsuit.
For example, the Texas statute requires plaintiffs to show that the emergency care provider acted in a way that was grossly negligent, reckless or intentional. Was relying on the word of an intoxicated driver and an injured 12-year-old that the Jeep was empty grossly negligent or reckless in nature? That’s something that a jury will likely have to sort out.
Should you ever find yourself in a situation where an emergency medical response either declines or delays your care after an accident, and it causes you further injury, an attorney can provide more information on your options.
Source: KVIA.com, “Officials probing how Texas girl left in car after accident,” Nov. 19, 2016