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A white late-model pickup truck and a white sedan crashed on State Road 849 around 7:20 a.m., Tuesday, March 12, 2019. According to the Graves County Sheriff’s Office, both cars collided and ran off the road injuring three people.

At least one person in the sedan had to be freed by a hydraulic extraction tool. All three suffered serious injuries and were taken to a local hospital. At the time of this report, it is unknown how the crash occurred or if alcohol was involved, but the sheriff’s office says the accident is still under investigation.

Jaws of Life

In many accidents, EMS workers need to cut someone out of their vehicle to get them the medical treatment needed. In the 1970’s EMS personnel began using the Jaws of Life, which is a brand name of a hydraulic rescue tool.

Today, almost all EMS units have these tools, and they have been credited with saving countless lives and enabling others to get necessary medical treatment more quickly to avoid further injury.

How do They Work?

The tools use liquid hydraulics to provide power to the tool which usually has two “jaws” that can be brought together or separated with great force. This can be used to cut through steel, sheet metal and other composites that are used in automobiles. The jaws can also be used to spread things apart so that rescuers can get someone out.

The Decision to use the Tools

The EMS workers at the scene of an accident will typically assess whether the tools are needed. Many units have designated trained personnel who use the machines, and many times they are the go-to person to decide how and when the tools are used.

Factors Considered

The Trauma Center at the University of Rochester has developed a process called the Damage Control Extrication Platform DCEx which is a set of protocols when to use the extrication tools. The factors help those in the trenches to make the right decision on how and when to use the tools. The DCEx outlines how to make those decisions. The factors use are:

  • High impact and failure or non-use of restrain system.
  • Failure of the patient compartment
  • Thoracic Trauma
  • Extreme lower extremity trauma (such as pelvis)
  • Three or more step process
  • Length of time for each possible extraction option
  • Patient condition degradation

These factors are to be considered in light of all circumstances happening in real time. For example, if by taking off the roof, the patient could be pulled free, but has an extreme injury, then removal of both doors might need to be done as well to reduce further injury.

The protocols call for each step taking no more than five minutes, and any extraction plan that takes more than 15 should be considered an extended extraction and would thus trigger longer-term care such as shock avoidance, hyperthermia, loss of blood and other stabilizing methods.

What if I’m Injured by the Jaws of Life

Unfortunately, mistakes happen and sometimes a patient is injured by the extrication procedure and may want to consider getting compensation for those injuries. This is not an easy decision as the EMS workers typically were working hard to help the patient, and many people feel that they shouldn’t make a claim against them.

However, sometimes the injury would be too great to not get compensation for someone’s mistakes. If someone decides to make a claim, the “Firefighters Rule” protects those who respond to an emergency from being sued while trying to help out. This will bar many claims from being successfully made, but the law does allow for egregious mistakes like an impaired EMS worker using the tool and causing injury.

Do I need an Attorney?

If you are injured and the Jaws of Life were used and/or you were injured by the use of the tools, talk to an attorney to be advised of your rights and have your case evaluated. Most of us do not want to make a claim against those who are trying to help us, but in those rare cases where mistakes were made, then the victim should not have to bear the full burden.

Call the attorneys at Kaufman & Stigger, PLLC, and they will stand behind you to make sure that you are treated fairly and that you get the highest compensation allowed by the law.