The elderly, sick and disabled often require specialized transportation, known as non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT), to get to doctors’ appointments and for receiving non-emergency medical treatments like rehabilitative therapy or dialysis services.
NEMT is provided in vehicles that are equipped for accommodating people in wheelchairs, on stretchers, and who need to travel with other medical equipment. Just as with other motor vehicles, accidents can occur in NEMT, and cause injuries to passengers who are already injured, sick or frail.
NEMT Accidents versus Auto Accidents
There are many factors that make NEMT accident claims more complex than other personal injury cases, including auto accident cases.
First, clients using NEMT services often have complex medical needs that make them more vulnerable than the average person when they travel. Drivers must exercise extra caution because bumps or hard braking that might be merely uncomfortable for healthy passengers can severely injure those who are medically fragile.
Second, non-emergency medical transportation agencies must use specialized vehicles–often ambulances–to safely transport these patients. Drivers for NEMT agencies must receive advanced training in order to operate both the vehicle and different medical equipment during the ride.
For example, an NEMT driver must be able to properly secure wheelchair-bound patients or patients on gurneys in the vehicle. He or she must also be able to operate a wheelchair lift to lower and raise these patients into and out of the vehicle in a safe manner.
In the past two years, several Georgia patients have been injured in accidents during non-emergency medical transportation (NEMT).
Many injury claims against NEMT providers result from improperly trained drivers failing to ensure that patients are properly secured during transport or understanding how to safely operate the wheelchair lifts.
NEMT Oversight Problems in Georgia
Across the country, millions of NEMT trips are made each year. In Georgia alone in 2012, the state Department of Community Health oversaw 3.6 million NEMT trips and, as the state has an aging population and outside of the Atlanta metropolitan area, little public transit, the need for NEMT will continue to grow.
But a 2017 investigation by the Atlanta-Journal Constitution newspaper found several problems with how NEMT providers are regulated in the state of Georgia. The report documents several discrepancies between accidents, including two deaths, that were reported by families and healthcare providers but were that were unaccounted for in the records kept by the state-authorized NEMT providers and brokers themselves.
Drivers without proper training and some with poor driving records and previous criminal convictions were operating NEMT vehicles without penalty, the report also found.
NEMT Negligence Cases are Complex
NEMT collision cases are complex and require a thorough understanding of the current laws. They cannot be litigated as just auto accidents, nor are they seen as a form of medical malpractice.
Pursuing a successful claim for an NEMT-related injury involves a thorough understanding of many different factors:
- the different regulations and laws governing NEMT in Georgia;
- the relationship between the brokers who coordinate NEMT services for state and local governments and the different NEMT companies who provide the actual services;
- the complex medical issues and needs of the individual people involved.
With the rapid expansion of the NEMT industry and a challenging regulatory environment, we expect to see preventable catastrophic injuries, including wrongful deaths, involving non-emergency transport vehicles in Georgia.
Through The Marks Law Group LLC, Non-Emergency Medical Transport Accident Attorney Aaron Marks helps injured people become whole again and regain their previous lives. If you or someone you care about is involved in a non-emergency medical transport accident in Atlanta, we welcome your call or text to 404-939-1485 for a no-obligation initial consultation.