You went to the emergency room because you needed immediate medical care for a sudden, serious condition. Unfortunately, the care you received there left you worse off than when you arrived. Do you have cause for a medical malpractice lawsuit? That depends on a few factors. If the hospital administration or ER staff made one of these common mistakes, you could be owed compensation for the harm their negligence caused.
All Emergency Rooms Face Challenges
Yes, some hospitals are known to provide better care than others, and their emergency departments often follow suit. However, all emergency rooms, despite their reputations, have times when they have more patients than they can provide adequate care for. During busy times, ER personnel is more likely to make mistakes that harm patients. Surprisingly, mistakes can also occur in the exact opposite situation, when emergency departments are slow. At these times, ERs can be understaffed and slow to provide testing and diagnoses. Common mistakes made in emergency departments include the following:
- Delay in treatment. Busy emergency rooms must have a system in place to assess the condition of every incoming patient. If wait times to see a doctor are long, and the admitting staff does not adequately triage patients, a seriously ill patient could suffer additional injuries by waiting for much-needed treatment. If ER personnel does not believe a patient when they are describing symptoms or discriminates against patients based on their race or age, treatment could be further delayed, resulting in more harm or even a patient’s death.
- Misdiagnosis. If ER staff fails to recognize signs of a serious medical condition—such as a heart attack or stroke—they could miss the opportunity to save a patient’s life. Diagnosing a patient with the wrong condition in the ER could also cause further harm and endanger their lives. If the doctor was negligent in failing to diagnose or misdiagnosing a patient, they could be held accountable for the harm that results.
- Medication errors. An ER doctor could make a mistake in ordering medication, or a nurse could make a mistake in administering it. Either way, giving the patient the wrong medication or the wrong amount of medication could result in further injury or death. In an understaffed ER, medication errors are unfortunately common.
- Failure to consult a specialist. Emergency room doctors are trained for trauma situations, but they are not experts in all areas of medicine. If an ER doctor fails to consult the proper specialist to accurately diagnose and treat a patient, they could be guilty of negligence.
- Lab errors. Overworked lab technicians could make mistakes in running tests, or radiologists and other specialists could make a mistake in reading a lab test. If a lab error harms a patient, the hospital employee responsible for the mistake could be held accountable through a medical malpractice lawsuit.
- Improper discharge. Discharging a patient with an incorrect diagnosis or before they have received adequate medical treatment could be the fault of a doctor, or it could be an administrative error. If a patient is harmed through early discharge, the reason for the discharge will have to be determined so the right party can be held accountable.
- Failure to follow-up. If a patient is discharged with unclear instructions for follow-up care or without necessary prescriptions, the doctor responsible for releasing them could be at fault for injuries that result. Likewise, if an ER doctor fails to relay important information or test results to a patient’s regular doctor, they could be guilty of negligence.
- Other forms of negligence. An ER that is unsanitary, employs improperly trained personnel, has poorly maintained equipment, or engages in patient dumping—releasing or transferring uninsured patients to another hospital—can be held liable for harming patients.
Not every poor medical outcome is cause for a medical negligence lawsuit, but if you were injured in an emergency room, a medical malpractice attorney can investigate what happen and determine if you are the victim of negligence.
Proving Emergency Room Negligence
Emergency department personnel are required to follow a standard of medical care. This means they are expected to practice in a reasonable and prudent manner. The question that is often asked during a medical negligence investigation is, “Would another professional have made the same decisions in a similar situation?” In addition to proving that a hospital employee acted in a negligent manner, you must also show that you were harmed as a direct result. Types of harm include:
- Physical injury
- Physical pain or emotional suffering
- Loss of employment or income
- Medical bills or expenses caused by your injury
- Permanent disability
If your attorney can prove that you had a doctor-patient relationship with the medical professional, the professional failed to follow a standard of care in treating you, you were injured as a direct result of the professional’s actions, and you suffered serious damages because of it, then you may have a strong medical malpractice case.
Our Medical Malpractice Attorneys Are Here to Help
Unfortunately, emergency room visits sometimes end tragically. After a traumatic accident, such as a car crash or bicycle accident, doctors may do everything they can to save a patient but be unsuccessful. When a patient arrives at the ER in the middle of a heart attack, it might be too late to save him. These are most likely not examples of medical malpractice, no matter how sad the situation is. However, when a patient would have had a better outcome if a different medical professional had treated them, or when a hospital employee acted in a blatantly negligent manner, the patient or their family might have cause for medical malpractice.
For more than 75 years, Keller & Keller has helped clients across the country receive compensation for highly complex and difficult injury claims, including medical malpractice lawsuits. Before you try handling this type of claim on your own, please contact one of our Albuquerque medical malpractice attorneys for free advice. We will let you know if we think you have grounds for a negligence claim.