EMS in the Video Age

Analyzing the good and bad that technology brings

Editor's note: EMT Jason Fait was cleared of vehicular homicide after a fatal 2006 ambulance accident in Penn Township, Pa., on Tuesday. EMS1 Legal Analyst David Givot shares his perspective on dashcams in ambulances, and reminds us that someone is always watching.

By David Givot

In the age of COPS, YouTube, and America's Most...Whatever, we have hopefully learned two things: 1) someone is always watching, and 2) the video (almost) never lies. The dashboard video in the trial of a Pa. responder who caused a fatal ambulance crash is a perfect example of both.

Someone is Always Watching
An ambulance dashboard camera facing the road is a fine idea for all the same reasons that led to police car dashboard cameras. However, as someone who spends his days defending the Constitution of the United States, I can't help but be concerned that this ambulance was equipped with a camera facing inside the cab; that every wayward glance, every spoken word, and every expulsion of flatus is captured and recorded.

It seems that provider agencies have finally reached the point of being so afraid of lawsuits that they are willing to sacrifice crewmember privacy. Naturally, like Shakespeare, I too blame the lawyers; in this case, for slithering into the cone of silence and muting the last bastion of politically incorrect humor and gallows venting.

Nevertheless, the grand irony in this case is that, what I believe to be, an invasion of these providers' privacy seems to have kept either or both of them out of prison.

The Video (almost) Never Lies
Richard Bach wrote: "Not being known doesn't stop the truth from being true." For plaintiffs attorneys in civil lawsuits, however, not being known means the truth doesn't matter. I assure you, absent this video, the trial in which the EMS providers were exonerated would have been teeming with allegations of misconduct, distraction, and willful disregard — none of which is true. Thanks to the video, as it is in more and more cases lately, the truth is clear. For these providers, the truth is an unfortunate accident, but certainly nothing criminal.

On the other hand, we must all take a breath and be very careful. I say the video almost never lies because what we see on video may not be all there is to see. Any video only shows us what was in front of the camera at the time it was recording. Video cannot show the moments leading up to or immediately after the camera is rolling.

In my criminal defense practice video evidence frequently brings the truth to light. Sometimes it's the truth that sets my clients free. Other times, it the truth that hurts. Either way, the video (almost) never lies.

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