Emergency rooms are stressful environments and are likely the last place you want to find yourself. If you’re an emergency room (ER) patient, you trust that your health and life are in good hands. But medical malpractice is an unfortunate reality that affects all aspects of the healthcare profession, and the ER is not immune to it. Medical professionals are required to treat their patients with a certain standard of care. When they fail to do so, patients can be seriously injured, become ill, or lose their lives. Cooper Schall & Levy understands how emergency room malpractice can make a bad situation worse, and we’re committed to defending the rights of patients who have been injured.
Common Medical Mistakes Made In The Emergency Room
The ER can be chaotic, filled with critically injured and sick patients, their family members, doctors, nurses, and others. With the frantic pace, intense stress, and life-or-death decisions, mistakes are bound to happen. Not all mistakes automatically mean malpractice, but many are avoidable. Regardless of how busy an emergency room is, however, some errors simply should not happen. But these and others often do:
- Failure to diagnose or correctly diagnose. An emergency room doctor may misread the signs or symptoms of which the patient is complaining. Some of the more commonly misdiagnosed conditions are heart attacks, strokes, pulmonary embolisms, and diseases such as tuberculosis and cancer.
- Infections. Contaminated tools and surgical equipment are often used in emergency rooms, which can cause infections. In other cases, patients with existing infections are not properly treated and their conditions can deteriorate.
- Anesthesia errors. All three forms of anesthesia – local, regional, and general – require a trained anesthesiologist and supporting staff. Errors involving anesthesia in an ER include overdosing and overlooking conditions that could complicate its use.
- Moving or releasing a patient prematurely. If the patient is not properly diagnosed or is not given a comprehensive examination, he or she could be discharged from the ER early. An underlying problem that is not properly treated in an emergency room may worsen, causing further complications.
- Delayed treatment. A busy environment like the ER means that patients will be overlooked as doctors and staff try to treat everyone. But an overlooked patient could develop even worse symptoms or die because of the delay.
Reasons How ER Errors Occur
By their nature, emergency rooms are more prone to error than other healthcare settings. If a doctor, nurse, or other healthcare professional acts negligently, they could be liable for the resulting mistakes. The above mistakes, and others happen for numerous reasons. They include:
- Failure to perform comprehensive assessments of the patient’s condition
- Failure to follow proper procedure or protocol
- Miscommunication between doctors and staff
- Overcrowding (too many patients)
- Understaffing (too few doctors, nurses, and staff)
- Overworked and exhausted doctors, nurses, and staff
- Inexperienced ER staff
- Missing or inadequate equipment
The Consequences Of ER Mistakes
Making a mistake in the emergency room could have fatal consequences. But for many patients, the results are significantly worse physical or psychological conditions. Had the injury or disease been properly treated, this might have been prevented. In some cases, patients even acquire new injuries or diseases while in the ER. The exact consequences of medical errors will vary from one person to another.
Often overlooked are the financial consequences of ER mistakes. A patient may need additional treatment or require extended hospitalization because of an error. He or she may even require physical therapy or rehabilitation. Regardless, recovering from a mistake can be expensive.
Elements Of An Emergency Room Malpractice Claim
Mistakes happen, even in the most organized medical settings. They certainly happen in the chaotic world of an emergency room, and not all of them are the result of malpractice. Some mistakes, however, are simply not reasonable in light of the existing circumstances. These are errors that occur because the responsible healthcare professional violated an acceptable standard of care in discharging his or her duties. When mistakes of this nature are made, they suggest malpractice.
Every malpractice claim will need to be evaluated on its individual facts. To prove that malpractice was the cause of your ER mistake, your lawyer has to establish:
- That there was a doctor-patient relationship, giving rise to a duty of care
- Some act of negligence on the part of the doctor, nurse, or staff member
- Injuries that directly resulted from the act of negligence
- Damages – such as medical or financial – that resulted from the injuries
The injured ER patient will have the burden of proof. You should turn to an experienced emergency room malpractice attorney at your earliest convenience. This is especially true because of time restrictions known as statutes of limitations. Emergency room malpractice victims in Pennsylvania typically have two years from the date of the error to pursue their claims. There are exceptions where the patient did not know, and could not have reasonably known, about the error. Because this area of law is complex, the best way to protect your rights is to consult an experienced ER malpractice attorney.
Damages That May Be Available In Your Case
If you can establish ER malpractice, you may be awarded these and other damages:
- Medical costs, including for necessary prescription medications
- Lost wages and lost earning capacity due to the error
- Pain and suffering and emotional distress
- In the event the patient dies, the family may be able to pursue wrongful death claims
Contact Our Philadelphia Emergency Room Malpractice Attorney Today
Emergency room malpractice can cause, personal injury, wrongful death, and needless suffering. If you or a loved one suffered an emergency room mistake, it is essential that you contact an experienced malpractice attorney. Let Cooper Schall & Levy investigate your claim. If you were the victim of malpractice, we will fight for the compensation you deserve. Contact our office today for a free evaluation of your case.