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Emergency Room Malpractice – Your Guide To Seeking Justice

Emergency rooms are chaotic, overwhelming, and busy. Not to mention patients are generally scared, in pain, and panicked. Patients are usually there due to an unfortunate, out of the blue accident that no one has planned or prepared for. Car accidents, violence, falls and sudden illness are all common reasons why people end up in ER. All these factors make the ER a pressure cooker for doctors and can put patient’s at a greater risk of experiencing emergency room malpractice…

What can you do if you think you’re a victim? Keep reading to learn more. 

What Is Emergency Room Malpractice?

Medical malpractice can occur anywhere in a hospital. On the flip-side, emergency room malpractice occurs only in the ER. In a nutshell, it’s when a patient goes to ER, receives below-par treatment and as a result, experiences harm.

What’s more, the two laws are different from one another. This is due to courts accepting that quick actions are essential during emergencies. This is unlike other healthcare settings, where there’s time to plan, prepare, and treat.

Medical staff rushes patient through emergency room.

When Can I Sue?

To sue for emergency room malpractice you must prove four elements. 

If you or your emergency room attorney can prove these four elements, you’ll have a strong case. Let’s explore the four elements:

Doctor-Patient Relationship

Simply put, the doctor and patient must have a direct relationship. This doesn’t include indirect communications, such as a patient overhearing advice from a doctor. Usually, a doctor-patient relationship is established through examining or providing treatment. Hospital records of the patient’s admittance and treatment proves this relationship. Once the relationship exists, a doctor owes their lawful duty of care to that patient.

Negligence

This can be more tricky to prove in an emergency room malpractice case. Proving negligence in a medical malpractice case has two parts, which are the standard of care and a breach of care. Let’s talk about both…

Standard of care

There needs to  be proof that the standard of care fell below the care a regular, competent doctor would provide. In other words, the doctor’s quality of care was below-par for that situation and other medical professionals would agree.

The standard of care expected of ER doctors is unique and may grant them more leeway – compared to other doctors. Why is this? Due to the frantic nature of the ER, doctor’s may have a lower standard of care compared to other areas of healthcare. 

For example, imagine a patient with an upset stomach seeking medical treatment. If that patient sees a specialist – the standard of care may expect various tests and screenings. As well as, ruling out possible causes as they go. This standard may not be the same in an emergency room. If the same patient went to ER, the accepted standard might be to run tests, offer medication, and refer the patient on. In the end, imagine the patient had a twisted bowel – a very serious condition if left untreated. The specialist could be held liable and the ER would be doctor free to go. Why?

The standard of care was higher for the specialist than the ER doctor. This is because, by the standard of care owed – the expectations are for the specialist to test and find the cause. Whereas, the ER doctor’s actions aligned with what’s expected of any ER doctor.

While this may sound tricky, a skilled lawyer can navigate these elements for you and show evidence of emergency room malpractice, if it occurred. 

Breach Of Standard Of Care

In most cases, a breach of standard of care is best proved using expert testimony. This is where an emergency room attorney may contact an experienced ER doctor on your behalf. He or she will testify to the court what a competent doctor would do in that specific situation. If the defending doctor’s actions don’t align with the testimony – then finding a breach is likely.

Think you may have a case on your hands? We offer free consultations. As trained professionals, we’ll provide insight to determine if negligence may have been the cause of your injury.

Harm 

Harm must come to the patient due to a doctor’s negligence for their to be a case. This may include physical, mental, and financial losses. Examples include corrective treatments, lost wages, medical costs, pain and suffering, and stress.

What’s vital in an emergency room malpractice case, is proving that the doctor’s negligent care is the cause of the injury or harm. For example, if a doctor makes an error but the patient has a full recovery with no burden, it’ll be a tricky case to win.

We understand finding proof is confusing, especially if you’re frustrated and in pain. An emergency room malpractice attorney can take the heavy load. We can make your case crystal clear and create strategies to better your situation in court or in a settlement. 

Common Mistakes That Lead To Emergency Room Malpractice

Delayed Treatment

The ER is often a place of queues, frantic pace, and frustration on all sides. Not to mention that they’re often overrun and understaffed, so it’s likely you’ll experience delays. Wait-list mix-ups can leave patients waiting longer than usual before they receive treatment. Should this delay cause them harm, they may be able to sue for malpractice.

Misdiagnosis

Misinterpreting test results or symptoms can lead to the wrong diagnosis and treatment. If this mistake causes harm, then there could be a malpractice case. Common misdiagnoses include heart attacks, strokes, twisted bowels, and meningitis. 

Ignored Policies

During busy rushes, shortcuts can be attractive. Even so, shortcuts in the emergency room can lead to poor treatment and could harm a patient. What does this look like? Lost paperwork, misinterpretation of results, and slack patient monitoring. These are common policies that may fall short of their usual standards in times of busyness.

A Story Of Misdiagnosis In The ER

Take the case of Emily Holcraft. Emily would be the last person you’d expect to have heart issues. At 41, she was a fit triathlete with no family history of heart disease. Yet, after a workout, she had crushing tiredness, pain across her left arm, and was short of air. Emily went straight to the ER where a doctor examined her. The ER doctor ordered an electrocardiogram – a test to check for heart abnormalities. Her results came back clear so she went home with the diagnosis of a panic attack.

Four hours later, she collapsed in her living room. An ambulance rushed her back to ER where further tests revealed she had suffered a heart attack. Further tests revealed four blood vessel blockages – two of which were blocked by more than 90%. Emily needed emergency heart surgery immediately. Thankfully, Emily recovered – though not totally. To this day, she takes daily medication and it was years before she was able to return to her passion, sports. She was lucky the error didn’t cost her life – but she still pays a price for it.

Man lies in hospital bed.

Need An Attorney Skilled In Emergency Room Malpractice?

Medical malpractice cases are complex and often need an experienced lawyer to navigate the evidence. Emergency room malpractice cases are no exception. Often, they need expert testimonies as well. 

With over 50 years of collective experience and a proven track record of success – we are well equipped to handle your case. Don’t carry the burden alone – get in touch with an experienced medical malpractice attorney for a free consultation