When emergency dispatchers do not answer 911 calls, they can be held liable for the injuries and fatalities that result from their negligence. Those who are left injured or grieving a loss when 911 dispatchers do not answer need to understand their rights in the days ahead.
Failure to Answer Contributed to Death of Michigan Man
In 2018 a Michigan man who was recovering from health concerns at a rehabilitation center suffered a heart attack. The 69-year-old needed immediate medical attention, so the staff at the rehab center called 911. It took 13 attempts before dispatchers answered the phone. By the time the ambulance arrived, significant damage had occurred. The patient died the following day.
An investigation by the local township found that the emergency dispatcher had turned down the volume on the 911 telephone speaker, thus missing the calls for help. This caused an 8-minute delay in emergency service. In the case of a heart attack, 8 minutes can mean the difference between survival and death. A physician who reviewed this particular case reported that the death would have been preventable without this delay. The man’s family has filed a $25 million lawsuit against the 911 operators. The dispatchers, who claimed they turned off the phone because one of them was “having a bad day,” faced suspension because of their actions.
Understanding the Obligations of 911 Operators
A 911 operator has a sworn duty to answer the calls placed during emergencies. People in the community have a reasonable expectation to believe that the phone will be answered when they call in an emergency, and that help will arrive in a timely manner. By failing to do this job, a 911 operator puts the lives of those in the community at risk. This is just cause for a lawsuit if someone suffers additional medical concerns or dies as a result of this type of negligence.