When IS it OK to Talk About Fight Club?

Documenting the Violent Encounter


WinningIn medicine, we will should never be engaged in a “fight”. If you have to “defend yourself” on the job, you need to make sure you know how to tell the story. Telling the true and complete story (documentation) will help prosecute those who commit criminal acts and help protect the employer and the employee from possible civil and criminal actions.

One of the most important training aspects in medicine is proper documentation. Documenting the use of force is no different. While investigating use of force incidents in medicine, I have found several cases where a provider used force “reasonably” but failed to tell his/her story (document) it properly. This failure to properly document has led to consequences such as lack of prosecution of the criminal attacker and even the termination of involved staff. Hopefully this section will help you understand the importance of proper documentation of the violent encounter.

Imagine the stress a provider is already under if they had to just defend themselves from a surprise attack… now administration and/or a police officer hands them a blank piece of paper and asks them to write down what happened.

When people take one of our Escaping Violent Encounters (EVE) classes, they receive documentation training. Agencies that adopt us are allowed to use our ARF (Assault Response Form). An excerpt from our ARF will be shown at the bottom of this post.

Being able to effectively document a use of force is an important as being able to parry a punch out of the way.  If you don’t document the incident as soon as possible, you may forget important facts regarding your self-defense situation. Be aware you may not only have to document for your EMS agency, but for law enforcement as well. Below is a list of information that must be included in your statement. Remember you were defending yourself.  Don’t be afraid to document the level of fear that was present during the attack. Staff painting the picture of the fear they felt at the time of the incident is probably the single most important factor.

When I informally interview people who have used force, and claimed it was self-defense, one of the first questions I ask them… “Where you afraid?” More often than not, they want to appear tough, puff up, and say “no”. Well… it is pretty hard to claim self-defense if you were not afraid. Police officers document “fear” every time they have to use force. They have to write “I was in fear the suspect would” do such and such is the reason an officer chose a specific level (reasonable amount) of force.

The relationship of the force (yours vs. theirs) will be questioned. You must paint the picture that you were forced to do what you needed to do in order to protect yourself.

Questions that must be answered;           

  • What type of call brought you there?
  • Who, what, why, when, where and how?
  • Witnesses?  Get their name, address, and phone number so they can be contacted if needed.
  • Injuries (to you and/or the patient/bystander)
  • What was said by each person involved?  Make direct quotes, even if the language was offensive.
  • What was the force level used? What was its relationship to the force used against you? Was there a need for the force?
  • What was your means to escape? Your report is your account of what happened and many people, including a jury, may read it. Make certain you indicate the reason for your actions. Keep to the timeline of events and don’t skip around in your report.

Show the totality of the circumstances. It will help explain why you felt afraid. List all of the factors involved; size (height and weight), age, gender of the attacker, weapons involved? Specify the medical care received by both parties.More than survive

State your perception at the time the incident occurred.  Be specific to the amount/type of force you used, and why you had to use it. You will be judged on your use of force based on a “standard”. That standard is based on the question, “Would a similarly trained person in the same or similar situation have used the same force you did to end the encounter.” Another question that will be asked is, “Was the force reasonable?” Properly documenting the whole incident helps a jury decide if your actions were in fact “reasonable”.

As you will see in the image below, our form wants to paint the entire picture, we try not to leave anything out. First the scene is set, then (not pictured) we move on to how the provider was attacked then onto how the provider defended themselves and so on. Notice we do not call our form a use of force report. Instead we call is an Assault Response Form. It is your documentation that you had to respond to an assault. This form goes along with the Assault Response Guidelines taught in EVE.


Assault Response Report Form (Page 1)



Remember to document, as soon as reasonably possible, the violent encounter. Using something like DT4EMS’ ARF helps the provider place the information in order to not skip important information. Documenting the incident helps show the provider and their agency had nothing to hide regarding the encounter. Proper documentation also helps with prosecution of criminal assaults against staff.