5 Year Old Child Dies Due to Transportation Negligence

A tragic, and completely preventable, accident happened in West Memphis, Arkansas, this Monday when 5-year-old Christopher Gardner, Jr died after being left in a van belonging to Ascent Children’s Health Services.

Four Ascent employees have been charged with manslaughter in connection to the child’s death, but the transportation broker, Southeastrans, continues to be responsible for getting children to Medicaid-funded therapy at Ascent West Memphis. Southeastrans is subject to a 13-point corrective action plan, but is unclear at this point what consequences it will face should it fail to perform as required.

Sadly, Southeastrans continues to operate largely without consequence for the negligent, and at times grossly negligent, behavior of its transportation providers. Southeastrans is a non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) broker. These brokers frequently look to avoid responsibility for their transportation partners’ negligence by claiming they merely provide training, and not the actual transportation. However, NEMT broker training and supervision is clearly insufficient if these preventable accidents keep happening.


Patient Dies in Medical Van Crash

A medical transport van taking a patient to dialysis crashed today, killing the patient being transported. The van collided with a SUV that was making an illegal U-turn at the time. Non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) is state, and not federally, regulated, and it is unclear from the known facts if the NEMT company was in compliance with Michigan law.

Non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) accidents often happen due to the negligence on the Non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) driver. Drivers have fallen asleep at the wheel, crashed into ditches, and failed to properly secure their patients into the vehicles.

The NEMT driver claims the deceased was “well-secured” into the vehicle, though the official investigation has not concluded.






Sleeping Non-Emergency Medical Transport Driver Causes Emory Bus Crash

 Several people were injured, one critically, after a Non-Emergency Medical Transport driver fell asleep at the wheel, went through a red light, and hit an Emory University bus, causing it to crash into a building at Candler Rd. and Glenwood Road Tuesday morning.
DeKalb County police say the Non-Emergency Medical Transport driver admitted to falling asleep at the wheel.  The Non-Emergency Medical Transport driver was cited for running the red light.
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Captain Eric Jackson with DeKalb County Fire Department said at least 10 people were transported to local hospitals, including the bus driver, who is said to have the most serious injuries and was listed as critical. The damage to the bus and ambulance is extensive.

Jackson said firefighters had to assist riders out of the bus but said everyone was able to exit. There were 15 people on the bus during the accident.

The building the bus careened into houses the ATC income tax company and 360FIXX.

According to Emory University, the “Emory shuttle” was heading from a Park and Ride location at South DeKalb Mall and was transporting Emory employees and students when it was struck just after 6 a.m.

For a time, the entire area was shut down.

NEMT Owner Accused of Sexual Assault

Central Florida Non-Emergency Medical Transport (NEMT) company owner, Shannon Heathcock, is accused of sexualy assaulting his own employee. Christina Inness, a former employee of NEMT company DASH, claims Heathcock forced himself on her after a long night of drinking at a local bar. Inness says Heathcock took advantage of her while she was passed out from alcohol Heathcock provided. This accusation is particularly alarming because of the business DASH is involved in.

NEMT is the transportation of elderly, sick or disabled patients to and from attending doctors’ appointments and non-emergency medical treatment. Because these patients are, by definition, medically fragile, the persons transporting them need special training, background checks, and drug testing, at a minimum. Unfortunately this often does not happen, resulting in catastrophic injuries and wrongful deaths. 

Perhaps the most disturbing development of this story is that Heathcock has allegedly transferred his company to his wife, thereby shielding his assets from Inness and any potential litigation. Heathcock has denied all allegations against him.

NEMT Employer Assaults Employee

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Non-Emergency Medical Transport Radio Interview

Recently I had the pleasure of discussing Non-Emergency Medical Transport (NEMT) with fellow attorneys Stephen D. ApolinskySarah R. WatchkoJeffrey S. Warncke, and Nathan E. Woody.

Stephen D. Apolinsky deals with NEMT in the context of nursing home abuse. When Mr. Aplolinsky investigates whether nursing home abuse has occurred he examines who the patients caretakers are, up to and including the NEMT provider. Often nursing home patients cannot advocate for themselves, and need attorneys such as Mr. Apolinsky to advocate for them. When patients are transported from the nursing home to and back from their medical provider, dialysis, or the hospital, NEMT employees are responsible for their safety. When patients are injured by NEMT negligence it is not uncommon for the NEMT employees to blame the nursing home where the patient resides, and not accept responsibility.

Attorney Sarah R. Watchko represents individuals seeking legal advice concerning estate planning and administration, as well as elder law and special needs planning. Ms. Watchko’s clients often find either themselves or a family member participating in NEMT as a patient. Clients may seek Ms. Watchko out to plan for their estate before they become unable to function properly or make administrative decisions. Often Ms. Watchko’s clients take NEMT to and from medical appointments, and are unable to best determine which, if any, NEMT companies to engage with.

What does an insurance customer do who is being treated unfairly by his insurance company? If the customer is smart he’ll seek out the legal advice of attorney Jeffrey S. Warncke. Mr. Warncke protects individuals and families from unscrupulous insurance companies victimizing them a second time. Attorney Warncke interacts with NEMT companies if his client needs transportation to or from a medical provider. Because the NEMT is so entwined with Medicaid, Medicare, and private insurance, Mr. Warncke is well versed dealing with the various entities.

Nathan E. Woody, a widely respected Georgia and South Carolina worker’s compensation attorney, utilizes NEMT for his clients to go to and from their medical providers. Because of attorney Woody’s experience his clients are often treated better, and have a better outcome, than many other worker’s compensation claimants.  NEMT for worker’s compensation is usually paid for by the employer’s worker’s insurance company, and that insurance company employs a NEMT broker to hire the actual NEMT provider. If the NEMT provider acts negligently and injures the worker’s compensation claimant, not only is the NEMT provider liable, but so might be the NEMT broker, for the reason that the broker likely required certain training and expertise from the NEMT provider, and selected the provider from other providers based on individual experience, safety record, and training.

Above are just some of the various attorneys who deal either directly or indirectly with NEMT. It is a vast industry that touches many parts of the law, and will continue to do so in the future.

Aaron M, Steve A, Sarah W, Jeff W, Nathan W, & Emily R (Host)











Convicted Murderer Drives Colorado NEMT Patients

Ronald Vashone-Caruso, a convicted murderer out on supervised release, transported Non-Emergency Medical Transportation (NEMT) patients until an allegedly harassed patient complained to the Colorado Department of Corrections. Mr. Vashone-Caruso was not terminated for his behavior or criminal history, but rather his insurance had lapsed, making him ineligible under Colorado law.

NEMT is the transportation of elderly, sick or disabled patients to and from attending doctors’ appointments and non-emergency medical treatment. Because these patients are, by definition, medically fragile, the persons transporting them need special training, background checks, and drug testing, at a minimum. Unfortunately this often does not happen, resulting in catastrophic injuries and wrongful deaths. 

Mr. Vashone-Carus worked for Liberty Transportation, the for-profit NEMT provider,  which is now out of business.  The for-profit NEMT broker, Total Transit, is ultimately responsible for quality controlling who operates under Colorado’s NEMT program. Interestingly, Total Transit has refused to comment on how Mr. Vashone-Carus became a NEMT driver.

Because Liberty Transportation and Total Transit are transporting patients for money they are “common carriers” and therefore have the “highest duty” to transport their patients safely.


New Jersey Patients Stranded by Logisticare

New Jersey residents are increasingly stranded due to Logisticare’s erratic pickup and drop-off scheduling. Residents in Camden and Trenton, New Jersey, have been left “for hours at their doctor’s offices, or never picked up at all.” The problem is so bad New Jersey invited public comments on requirements for the next medical transportation contract, a step not usually taken.

It is unknown what safety, training, or background checks will be required when the next (Non-Emergency Medical Transport) NEMT broker is chosen. Because the broker effectively controls the training and safety culture of the NEMT providers New Jersey residents should insist that all providers undergo at least CTAA certification. It has been shown again and again that inadequate training and background checks will lead to serious injuries, including death, of the patients being transported.

Patient Dies in North Georgia NEMT Accident

A patient died when her Coweta ambulance, heading westbound on East Highway 34 near Chatsworth Place, in Coweta, Georgia, apparently traveled onto the north shoulder of the road and hit a ditch with its front, became airborne, rotated clockwise and struck a power pole with its left side, eventually overturning. It is unclear whether the patient, who had been admitted to the hospital earlier due to chest pains, was being taken to a different hospital for further study or as a precaution. The AMR ambulance driver was unavailable for comment due to his own injuries.

NEMT accidents are especially dangerous because, by definition, they involve transporting a medically fragile person. Thankfully NEMT companies are encouraged to train, retain, and background check all of their employees.  This training should include driving in unsafe conditions, including driving through rain, snow, and hail.

If the ambulance was actually operating as an emergency vehicle the EMTs could be granted  qualified immunity under (O.C.G.A. § 31-11-8).


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Police Probe Woman’s Death From Minor NEMT Collision

An 85-year-old woman died  after a non-emergency medical transport van was involved in a minor collision, according to the Indio, California Police Department. It is unknown at this time whether the woman was properly strapped into her seat, or what, if any, precautions the Non-Emergency Medical Transport (NEMT) company took to safely transport her. Because the NEMT company was transporting the woman for hire the company is held to the highest standard of care for her safety and well being.

Increasingly NEMT companies, unless being required to by broker-agreement or statute, are not training their employees to safely transport patients, which is resulting in catastrophic injuries and deaths. Additionally, NEMT companies have to combat driver fatigue, where the drivers and other employees have delayed, and often mistaken, decision making abilities.

Because this was a minor collision, and it appears no other passenger, driver, or employee was injured, the woman’s death raises serious questions as to how the NEMT transported their patient.

Texas NEMT Lacked Criminal Background and Drug Tests – Results in $31Million of Improper Payments

The Office of Inspector General (OIG)  recommended Texas return $31 million in improper reimbursements related to its non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT) program. Texas, like all states that administer Medicaid, applied for reimbursement from the federal government for providing eligible Medicaid beneficiaries transportation if they have no other options and a medical reason for the transportation exists. Unfortunately the Texas Medicaid agency overseeing the NEMT program failed to:

  1. Verify that the NEMT vehicles had been registered and inspected.
  2. Verify that criminal background checks were administered to drivers.
  3. Verify that drug tests were administered to drivers.

It is unknown from the OIG’s report whether any serious injuries or wrongful deaths resulted in this mismanagement of Texas’ NEMT program. However, it raises serious questions about claims of injury from patients whom NEMT was their only available transportation.

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