Can You Sue a Paramedic, Firefighter?

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By Stephanie Rabiner, Esq. on June 07, 2011 9:49 AM

As a result of a Memorial Day incident that left the city of Alameda's first responders on the shore while a man drowned in an apparent suicide attempt, a lot of people are wondering whether it's possible to sue a paramedic or firefighter for failing to provide adequate medical care.

While in some jurisdictions it is possible to sue a paramedic, the right is typically limited, and will vary state by state.

And in some instances, it simply depends on whether the state has waived its sovereign immunity.

Sovereign immunity is a legal doctrine that says that the government and its employees cannot be sued without its permission.

What this means is that, unless your state has passed legislation that permits a private citizen to sue a state-employed paramedic, you have no right to do so.

This situation is not uncommon. In fact, Georgia still has not waived its sovereign immunity with respect to lawsuits against state-employed first responders.

Just because a state has waived its sovereign immunity, or a person was injured by a private first responder to whom sovereign immunity does not apply, it doesn't mean that he or she can automatically sue a paramedic.

Many states permit lawsuits against first responders, but limit the situations in which they may occur so as to encourage the provision of emergency services.

For instance, in California, you can only sue a paramedic if their actions were taken in bad faith or were grossly negligent. There is also a legal presumption of good faith and proper conduct, meaning it's very difficult to succeed in these sorts of lawsuits.

If you're curious about whether you can sue a state-employed or private paramedic, take a look at your state code. You'll likely find your answer in the chapters for torts and public health and safety.

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