When an accident occurs, people are instructed to dial 911. In a serious car accident, the amount of time it takes an ambulance to arrive could mean the difference between life and death. Given that, it would seem obvious to accident victims that the nearest ambulance would always be the one summoned. Unfortunately, that is often not the case. According to the Tennessee Court of Appeals, there is no reason to expect that to change anytime soon. In a case involving a 2010 car accident that claimed the life of a young man, ambulances located just 2 or 3 minutes away were not summoned so that an ambulance within the county could be used. That ambulance took between 10 to 15 minutes to arrive. The Appeals Court ruled that there was no duty to summon aid outside of the jurisdiction in which the accident took place.
Accident victims are unlikely to be concerned about territorial disputes. It is difficult to fathom that when a person’s life is at stake anyone would consider County, City or even State lines more important. The ability of communities to cooperate and coordinate emergency services varies from one location to the next. If cooperation is not made legally mandatory, it is likely that tragedies such as the one in Tennessee will continue to occur.
It is too much to ask that accident victims be aware of which hospital is nearest. In an emergency, we are all forced to rely on the decision-making ability of others to help us. Emergency responders work in challenging conditions. Every second is precious when it comes to saving a life. The least we should be able to expect is that those seconds aren’t wasted by bureaucratic red-tape.
Source: The Tennessean, “Metro had ‘no duty’ to summon closer ambulance for man after wreck,” by Brian Haas, 24 November 2012