Are EMTs Responsible for Proper Labor and Delivery?

Babies are unpredictable—especially in their arrival to the world.  Their predilection for unpredictability has new parents sometimes finding themselves with “birthing plans” that bear no resemblance to reality.

While some moms-to-be envision home births with the assistance of a trusted midwife and terrified husband, others prefer the clinical treatment from a qualified medical facility.  However, there are times when the birth meets none of these well-designed plans—and it may be an EMT or paramedic who ends up delivering the baby.  And if the baby suffers an injury, it is the EMT or paramedic who faces liability and potential claims for harm.

How Might an EMT or Paramedic Cause Birth Injury?

Both EMTs and paramedics receive special training in crisis and emergency health care.  This usually includes basic training in childbirth, presumably as a course of treatment while en route to a hospital or other medical facility.  They are not, however, obstetricians or certified childbirth professionals, and may make mistakes:

  • Not responding in time.  If there are delays in getting to the mother, or getting her the right help, that could result in the baby being born with an injury, and that delay may be considered negligent behavior.
  • Not identifying risks.  If the emergency team does not recognize that a baby is on the way and treat the mother, lost time can result in harm.
  • Improper use of tools, medications, or equipment.  A woman giving birth is going to be in pain.  But not all medications are appropriate for her or for her baby. Knowing what’s correct is essential, as is knowing the proper way to use tools such as forceps.
  • Not treating the baby properly.  Harm may come in the form of ignorance. For example, if a paramedic does not ensure that a newborn’s airway is clear and the child suffers oxygen deprivation after being born.

What Is the Standard of Care for an EMT or Paramedic?

There is a standard of reasonable care imposed on emergency medical professionals, but that standard is not the same as the one imposed on a hospital or board-certified professional.  No EMT is expected to know all that the neonatal specialist, obstetrician, anesthesiologist, pediatrician, and even the nursing staff specializing in labor and delivery know.  So the standard of care is adjusted to reflect the more generalized knowledge of a medical crisis manager rather than a specialist.

Are EMTs or Paramedics Liable for Injuries They Cause?

New Jersey adheres to a doctrine that protects individuals who attempt to render aid but who, in doing so, cause harm.  This is true unless the individual delivering services does so in a reckless or grossly negligent manner.

If your baby has been harmed, nothing matters more than making sure he or she has the best chance at recovery, and sometimes the cost can be astronomical.  In cases like this, you need the advice of experienced attorneys to guide you.

Blume Forte Fried Zerres & Molinari has obtained more personal injury settlements and verdicts than any other firm in New Jersey.  Contact our office at 973-845-4421 today and speak to a New Jersey birth injury attorney.



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