911 operators and emergency responders can be held liable when they fail to respond appropriately to emergency situations. When individuals call 911 or 112 seeking assistance, fire, police, and medical personnel have a duty of care that includes performing their responsibilities within set guidelines and requirements. When they deviate from protocol and accepted norms, they intentionally place individuals in harm’s way.
The Ways 911 Can Fail
There are many ways that emergency responders can fail when a 911 call is placed. Dispatchers may not “pick up” the call, dispatchers may fail to hear or convey critical details to fire, police, or paramedics, or dispatchers may provide incorrect location information to responding personnel. These failures can delay the response time which can have potentially lethal consequences to accident victims, those experiencing medical emergency, or individuals trapped in violent situations.
Technological failures are also responsible for causing for 911 failures. Switchboards can fail and GPS systems can misdirect emergency responders. When these systems fail, liability may fall upon the equipment manufacturer and those responsible for upgrading and maintaining these systems. Individuals may also be liable for failing to know how to utilize these systems as they relate to their job duties.
Failure to Investigate
Law enforcement, firefighters, and other emergency responders have a responsibility to thoroughly investigate emergency calls. When they arrive at the scene of an accident, they are required to establish what type of accident has occurred, whether a victim is in need of assistance, what assistance is required, etc. For example, receiving a call about an automobile accident in low-light or bad weather conditions requires emergency responders to identify the location of the accident and any vehicles or victims that may be hidden within ditches or down embankments. Failing to conduct a proper investigation is considered gross negligence and may result in serious personal injuries or the wrongful death of the individuals in need of assistance.
Sovereign Immunity in Tennessee
911 operators and other emergency responders are not protected under the doctrine of sovereign immunity when their actions constitute gross, willful, or wanton negligence. Individuals can pursue claims against such personnel when their actions contribute to causing personal injury or wrongful death. A personal injury lawyer in Tennessee can help victims pursue claims against emergency responders and the entities they work for when their failures cause personal injuries or wrongful deaths to the people they are supposed to assist and protect.