An emergency room is where patients go when they need immediate medical attention. They are the first destination people have in mind when an accident happens or a sudden illness affects them, and often, ERs experience overload, especially when natural disasters or other tragic events occur.
Although emergency physicians and personnel have extensive training, rushed treatment and medical errors can lead to medical malpractice in the emergency room.
If you or someone you know suffered injuries after visiting an ER for treatment, the personal injury attorneys at the law firm of Nessler & Associates can help you. We can seek compensation for your damages from the responsible parties with an ER medical malpractice lawsuit.
What Constitutes Emergency Room Malpractice?
Malpractice in emergency rooms occurs when an emergency room physician fails to uphold the medical standard of care, such as not following standard medical procedures to provide quality care to patients and keep them safe. An emergency room doctor’s negligence may come from treatment and diagnostic errors.
About 4 to 6% of all medical malpractice claims result from treatment in the emergency room. Most claims of negligence in emergency care are based on diagnostic errors and can seriously impact necessary follow-up treatments for patients.
The fast-paced nature of hospital emergency rooms makes medical errors more prevalent in that environment, a fact that doesn’t remove liability from medical professionals.
Common Emergency Room Errors
Emergency room mistakes can arise when ER medical staff engage in a variety of behaviors and neglect to perform necessary procedures. Some mistakes are made due to negligence, while others result from insufficient supervision from the emergency room doctor.
Misdiagnosis in the ER happens when an emergency healthcare provider fails to diagnose a condition or makes an erroneous diagnosis. This means that the patient’s underlying health issue is overlooked or diagnosed as another medical condition in the emergency room. However, the health issue was only discovered in a follow-up appointment.
One common cause of misdiagnoses is not performing a differential diagnosis. This is when a doctor takes the time to conduct medical tests that differentiate a medical condition from another health issue with similar symptoms. A study conducted in 2019 found that incorrect diagnoses of emergency room patients resulted in longer hospital stays and higher hospital mortality rates.
Delayed diagnosis or treatment
Delays in diagnosis can lead to further complications in treating an illness or condition or even death if not caught early. Lacking access to equipment and failing to examine an accident victim can lead to life-threatening internal bleeding, risk of infection, and even permanent disability.
The presence of an infection can be difficult to detect, especially when dealing with multiple symptoms like fever, vomiting and diarrhea. This makes it especially important to ensure that lab work is performed correctly so that doctors can make informed decisions about their patients’ health care.
Laboratory errors refer to everything from tainting a sample because of improper handling and mixing up patient samples to using faulty lab kits and incorrectly reporting results. A laboratory error can lead to multiple medical errors that cause severe damage and even permanent injury for patients.
Improperly medicating patients
Medication errors occur when an ER doctor or nurse administers the incorrect medication, gives the wrong dosage, or mixes up the recipient. This can result in incorrect doses being given to patients, which could lead to serious complications down the road if not caught early enough. For example, giving an anticoagulant instead of an antiplatelet medication could lead to severe bleeding.
Failing to follow up
Emergency room patients often suffer from conditions that require constant monitoring. If an emergency room doctor fails to follow up on a patient whose condition changes rapidly, their health can deteriorate, placing their life in danger. This can lead to misdiagnosis and mistreatment of patients, resulting in further complications for those already struggling with serious injuries or illnesses.
Lack of communication
Your care may be handled by emergency medical technicians, doctors, and other hospital staff members responsible for communicating your care. Poor communication between them can result in the loss of critical information to treat your condition.
Common communication errors include incorrect information in your medical records and incomplete aftercare instructions.
Injuries From Emergency Room Errors
ER medical malpractice by emergency room staff members can exacerbate an already serious problem. Some of the more severe injuries due to poor medical treatment in ERs include:
With almost 10% of strokes receiving a misdiagnosis in ERs across the United States, the harm from an incorrect doctor assessment can leave the patient with a long-term disability. Loss of sensation, limb paralysis, and even death can result from a stroke misdiagnosis.
A pulmonary embolism occurs when a clot that forms in a blood vessel travels to a lung artery, stopping blood flow. Pulmonary embolisms can happen if emergency medical staff fail to recognize the signs of clotting in a patient and administer anticoagulants accordingly.
Car accident victims, slip-and-fall victims, and those suffering blunt force trauma from various causes seek care in the ER. If an emergency room doctor fails to diagnose internal bleeding, the patient’s condition can deteriorate rapidly.
Brain bleed can lead to mental impairment, paralysis, and death, while internal bleeding in other vital organs may require emergency surgery to save the patient.
Contaminated blood transfusions
Despite hospitals taking measures to test blood safely, there is a real possibility that a patient can receive a contaminated transfusion. For example, bacterial contamination happens in approximately 1 in every 2,000-3,000 platelet transfusions.
If a patient is hemorrhaging while in surgery, undetected, bacterial infection or other pathogens in the blood can cause severe illness and death in transfusion recipients.
Can You Sue the ER for Malpractice?
Many people think that mistakes are acceptable due to an ER’s busy environment where doctors and nurses are rushing to assist patients. This myth keeps malpractice victims from pursuing the compensation they deserve.
If you or a family member sustains injuries at the hands of emergency room personnel, you have the right to sue the ER team that tended to your medical issue.
To prove you have a medical malpractice claim for emergency room negligence, it needs to have the following elements:
- Doctor-patient relationship: You must have been under the direct care of a doctor to show there was a relationship between you and the doctor. The doctor must have administered treatment when you arrived at the emergency room.
- The injury was caused by emergency room negligence: For medical malpractice cases to be valid, the negligent doctor is compared to the standard of care that doctors with similar training and experience circumstances would have provided. Expert medical witnesses can testify about the standard of care in the situation and how the medical provider deviated from it in the emergency room.
- The injury caused significant damages: The injury must have caused significant financial losses such as considerable medical bills, loss of income, and pain and suffering. These can be proven with medical records and pay stubs showing what you could have earned if it weren’t for the injury.
Wrongful Death Claim
Wrongful death due to malpractice is never excusable due to the ER staff being under pressure from high patient volume. Pursuing a wrongful death claim can offer relief for family members who will have to continue without the deceased. In the case of a spouse or a parent, economic losses such as medical bills, funeral and burial expenses, and lost income can throw a family into financial turmoil.
Filing a wrongful death lawsuit can help you recover financial damages and non-economic damages such as reduced quality of life, pain and suffering, and loss of companionship.
Contact an Emergency Room Malpractice Attorney Today
Whether from surgical errors or blatant disregard for the proper standard of care, your medical emergency should not produce injuries you didn’t have before. An experienced medical malpractice attorney from Nessler & Associates can handle your medical malpractice claim and ensure that the emergency room staff responsible for your injuries is held accountable.
Call our law firm at (800) 727-8010 to schedule a free, confidential consultation as soon as possible, so you can get on the road to recovery, ensure the responsible party is brought to justice, and get the settlement you need and deserve.