Many patients use non-emergency medical services to arrange trips to and from a hospital, an ambulatory surgical center, a doctor’s office, a physical therapist’s office, or other medical provider locations. Some of the services are managed by the health provider’s offices. Other ride services are offered by Medicaid or other organizations.
While these ride services do help patients obtain the care and treatments they need in a safe and convenient manner, the drivers and owners of these services should be held accountable if the patient suffers harm during the ride. These ride services are different than emergency ambulances, which should be equipped to handle medical problems while ensuring a patient gets to a hospital or burn center as quickly as possible.
Still, non-emergency transportation services must put also patient safety first. Non-emergency medical transportation services include ambulances, wheelchair transportation, stretcher transportation, and other services.
What are the best practices for transporting patients in non-emergency vehicles?
There are many safety protocols drivers and transport services should take when transporting patients, especially if the patient has a disability or special needs. For example, shoulder straps should be used along with crossbody straps. Many stretchers, however, still come without shoulder straps, even though crossbody straps are best practice, and the only way to truly comply with Triple-K standards (as described below).
According to Frazer, an ambulance transport service:
Probably the most widely known ambulance safety standard is KKK-A-1822, commonly known as Triple-K, and presently on version F. Put forth in 1974 by the General Services Administration of the United States, Triple-K sought to establish a minimum safety and design standard for ambulances purchased with federal funds.
About 30 states have adopted this standard. In the states where the standards were not adopted, regulatory agencies generally let the local EMS department decide what standards apply. Since the Triple-K standards were established, other organizations have added new sets:
The Ambulance Manufacturers Division (AMD) of the National Truck Equipment Association (NTEA) created a set of performance standards that helped ensure consistency in the realm of testing procedures that referred back to the Triple K specification. Since 2002, the K spec has referenced these 25 standards promulgated by the AMD.
The Triple-K standards ensure ambulances across the nation are designed and built with both driver, passenger, and patient safety in mind.
Medicaid transportation services and liability
According to Medlink, a medical transport company, patients can order ambulances for non-emergency medical issues. Riders can use private services that they pay for out-of-pocket or through their insurance carrier. Patients on Medicaid or Medicaid-eligible can obtain a non-emergency ambulance if they don’t have a car or a valid driver’s license. Each state, including Ohio, has its own separate rules that govern ride eligibility.
Some of the criteria that Medicaid requires of its vehicles and drivers that provide non-emergency medical transport services include:
- Drivers must have a valid and proper driver’s license. Some states require that drivers have a chauffeur’s license or an equivalent license for vans and taxis. There may be limits as to how many points a driver can have on his/her driver’s license. The driver may need a certification of good health and may need to pass a criminal background check. The state, the broker that arranges the trip, and the transport company should investigate any complaints about the driver.
- Vehicles should be properly registered and have the correct license plate. They should be regularly inspected and maintained. The owner of the vehicle should have the state-required liability insurance coverage.
Why do non-emergency medical transport (NEMT) accidents happen?
The people who request NEMT services are already in ill health. Any type of accident can be catastrophic or seriously worsen a patient’s current medical conditions. We represent Columbus patients who are injured due to:
- Accidents that occur while a patient is getting into or out of the transport vehicle. Patients with health problems, especially if they have a disability, often have difficulty getting into or out of the transport vehicle. The drivers and other NEMT employees should understand how to ensure the patient can enter and exit the transport comfortably and safely. For starters, the vehicle should be equipped so that the entrance/exit is level with the ground instead of forcing the patient to use steps. Without proper help, patients may fall or be dropped from stretchers, wheelchairs, or other equipment. Falls can cause traumatic brain injuries, spinal cord damage, fractures, and even death.
- Collisions with other motor vehicles. NEMT vehicles can collide with other vehicles for many reasons. Common causes of vehicle accidents include speeding, driver distraction, driving while tired, and driver intoxication. The NEMT drivers need to take their time. As long as it is not an emergency, there’s no reason for them to speed.
- Not securing the patient to their seat or the wheelchair to the vehicle. The NEMT vehicle should be equipped with proper restraints that can secure the patient/rider in their seat. Patients in wheelchairs or stretches cannot reach out with their hands in the case of a minor accident. If the patient isn’t secured properly, the wheelchair or stretcher can move. Patients can be injured by improper motion if there is no accident and can be severely harmed if the NEMT vehicle collides with another vehicle. A failure to secure a patient is especially dangerous because the patient may suffer an initial injury due to a collision, and a secondary harm because they are ejected from their wheelchair, stretcher, or gurney.
- Not using chair lifts correctly. Chair lifts help a patient who is confined to a wheelchair get into and out of the vehicle. If the vehicle is not equipped with a chair lift, the owner of the vehicle may be liable for an accident. If the driver fails to use the chair lift correctly, the driver and owner may be liable. If the chair lift is defective, the manufacturer of the chair lift may be liable for any injuries.
Drivers should wait to see that patients enter the medical facility instead of leaving a passenger at the curbside or on the sidewalk.
Columbus personal injury lawyers helping NEMT accident victims and families
You need skilled Columbus personal injury attorneys who understand the traffic laws, the personal injury laws, the federal and state laws that regulate transport companies, nursing home policies if the patient is transported to and from a nursing home, and other relevant information. If a patient dies, the family needs a skilled trial lawyer who understands Ohio’s wrongful death laws.
The Columbus non-medical transport lawyers at Soroka & Associates have the experience and resources to help accident victims obtain justice. We’ve helped numerous claimants obtain strong recoveries. To discuss your compensation rights, call us at 614-358-6525 or use our contact form to schedule a free consultation.