A paramedic issued legal proceedings against the HSE and the Motor Insurance Bureau of Ireland (MIBI) when she was injured when the ambulance she was working on swerved suddenly to avoid a car that came against a red light while the crew was taking a heart attack victim to Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Drogheda.
Ms. Richardson, the Plaintiff, had been treating an elderly heart attack patient in the back of the ambulance, while her colleague was driving the ambulance. The ambulance driver gave evidence to say he had to take evasive action to avoid a collision and pulled the ambulance to one side, clipping the kerb of a traffic island, before stopping. The plaintiff was seated at the time of the accident however was not wearing her seatbelt.
The collision caused her to fall out of her seat and left her with significant injuries, resulting in a chronic pain condition, problems walking and standing for long periods. The plaintiff continues to take a ‘cocktail of medication’. The plaintiff also suffered psychological injuries which included depression and sleep disturbance. The view of the expert pain specialist was that the plaintiff would never return to work as a paramedic despite numerous attempts by the plaintiff to do so.
Liability was a full issue in this case, with the HSE and MIBI both disputing negligence on their parts. The HSE Counsel claimed that the plaintiff could have taken the patient’s blood pressure remotely, which would have meant she would never have had to leave her seat. Counsel for the MIBI claimed that the design of the ambulance was a contributing factor to the injuries caused. All witnesses were examined and cross examined.
The CCTV camera had not been working on the day of the accident.
Having heard all evidence Judge White said in coming to his judgment said that he had to deal with the ‘real world’ where there is a balance between looking after the seriously ill patient and the safety of the paramedic. Judge White went on to say ‘a paramedic has a duty to take reasonable steps to preserve their own integrity and the ambulance was perfectly set up for the job at hand. There is a compromise that if you move the seat nearer to the stretcher, you would limit their ability to work with the patient’.
The Judge found that the HSE was not negligent and had no case to answer.
The Judge found that the MIBI were 80% liable for the injuries sustained by the paramedic, while the Plaintiff herself was found to be 20% liable. Judge White found the plaintiff contributory negligent owing to the fact that there was hand grabs on the stretcher and the blood pressure could have been remotely applied.
Following discussions with legal representatives for the plaintiff and the MIBI the case was settled for an undisclosed amount.
The above case is a good illustration of how Judges are keen to take a practical view on matters that come before the courts. The Judge in this case found that the HSE held no liability for the plaintiff’s injuries. The HSE were sued in their capacity as employers of the plaintiff and the ambulance driver. The MIBI were found liable for the majority of the claim (80%). The MIBI were sued as the vehicle that the ambulance swerved to avoid was never traced. If you find yourself involved in an accident involving an uninsured driver, an untraced driver or a foreign driver you are still entitled to pursue a claim, and should you be successful the MIBI will be liable for your compensation.
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