Working in an Arizona hospital emergency room is not for everyone. ER personnel must be able to make quick decisions on matters of life and death in an often fast-paced, chaotic, and stress-filled environment. So it is essential that hospitals make certain that they hire only doctors, nurses, and other staff who have demonstrated the ability to perform well and deliver a high standard of care under these demanding conditions. If hospital mistakes are made, if a patient is misdiagnosed, receives improper treatment, or is otherwise harmed by a medical error, they open themselves up to claims of medical malpractice. When this does happen, it is extremely important to contact a Phoenix emergency room errors lawyer.
When you must visit the emergency room, you have every right to expect the same high standard of care that you would expect from any doctor or healthcare professional. You expect that the proper tests and imaging will be ordered, the proper medications administered, and the correct diagnosis made. You should also expect to be informed as to what tests and procedures have been done and be given detailed follow-up instructions. If necessary, you should be admitted to the hospital for further care.
Lack of High ER Standards in Arizona Means Lives Lost
Unfortunately, there is much discrepancy among hospital emergency departments in Arizona, as well as the rest of the United States, with some offering consistently better care and fewer errors than others. The medical consumer reporting firm HealthGrades did a study of the nation’s emergency rooms and their patient outcomes. Based on the results of the study, HealthGrades determined that if every hospital emergency room performed up to the standards of those that received the Emergency Medicine Excellence designation, 170,856 more people might have survived during the two-year period of the study.
Of course, many people arriving at an emergency room are seriously ill or injured, and not every outcome is favorable, even if ER personnel do everything right. A bad outcome doesn’t mean malpractice has been committed. To be considered medical malpractice, the hospital, doctor, or staff must have deviated from the standard of care expected of any reasonably competent member of the medical profession in the same specialty in the same region.
Understanding Duty of Care in the Medical Field
All doctors and medical professionals owe their patients a duty of care. “Duty of care” is a legal term used to define the legal obligations medical professionals have toward their patients to provide the appropriate standard of care in a way that any other reasonable and competent medical professional would do under the same or similar circumstances.
For a successful malpractice suit, a lawyer must prove that a doctor/patient relationship was established when the malpractice occurred and that the doctor or medical professional neglected to live up to the expected standard during their treatment of the injured patient. Medical records and patient testimony typically prove that the doctor/patient treatment relationship was in place and that a doctor’s treatment, actions, or lack of treatment or action breached the standard of duty of care.
A doctor’s duty of care includes the following:
Perform appropriate medical exams based on the symptoms the patient presents
Order the appropriate tests to confirm or rule out a diagnosis
Refer the patient to the appropriate specialist if needed
Inform the patient of their diagnosis in a timely manner
Inform the patient about their treatment options in a timely manner
Inform the patient of the risks associated with prescribed medications and recommended treatment
Inform the patient of drug effects such as drowsiness that could impact their care of others or the safety of others around them
Provide adequate supervision of all others in the medical team caring for the patient
Patients have the right to expect the medical professionals caring for them to strictly adhere to their duty of care. When they fail to live up to this expectation and it results in an injury to the patient, the injured patient has a right to compensation for their injury.
Two Categories of Medical Mistakes Occur in Emergency Rooms
It’s a challenge for organizations like the Joint Commission to point to consistent causes of errors and find ways to address them. Medical mistakes in the ER fall under two categories:
Errors of omission resulting from appropriate actions not taken, such as delaying treatment or failing to check records for patient allergies before administering a medication
Errors of commission caused by inappropriate actions taken such as prescribing the wrong medication or misdiagnosing an illness
Sometimes medical professionals fail to report errors out of fear of consequences such as disciplinary actions. Failing to report a mistake may compound the injury.
The Most Common ER Errors
The good news is that the Phoenix-Prescott metropolitan area made the cut of the top ten U.S. cities with the lowest patient mortality rate for those admitted to the hospital through the emergency room. But even in the best hospitals, carelessness and negligence may occur.The most frequent emergency room errors include:
Diagnostic errors (between 37 and 55 percent of all emergency room errors), including misjudging symptoms, delayed diagnosis, and incorrect diagnosis by a non-physician
Failure to obtain a thorough medical history
Overlooking essential information given when taking medical history (for example a drug allergy)
Failing to provide follow-up instructions to patient
Consequences of An Emergency Room Mistake
The common emergency room mistakes mentioned have a wide range of adverse effects on a patient, and most of these are a result of human error. Diagnostic errors prove to be the most common of all, and a simple mistake could put the patient’s life at risk. Patients could have sever allergic reactions to medication if charts aren’t carefully analyzed and overdosing patients does happen. Furthermore, pregnant women are at higher risk when they take a trip to the emergency room. Any faulty procedures could not only effect the mother but also the child she is carrying. Frequently, birth injuries in Phoenix are a result of an emergency room error, whether it be misuse of tools or other triage errors.
How Common Are Medical Mistakes in the ER?
According to John Hopkins, based on collected data over an 8-year period, approximately 250,000 deaths per year result from medical errors. Astonishingly, this makes medical errors the third leading cause of death in the United States.
The top reasons people file medical malpractice suits are as follows:
Prolonged delay of treatment
Their doctor failed to diagnose their medical condition
They received an injury during their treatment
The doctor failed to properly treat their medical condition including infections associated with the healthcare itself
They experienced a medication error (Over 1.3 million people suffer injuries from medication errors annually in the U.S.)
Inadequate medical supervision during their ER stay led to an injury
The doctor failed to have complete documentation follow them when they were admitted or transferred
They were prematurely discharged
A patient’s lawyer, the courts, and medical professionals may examine evidence in cases of the above forms of malpractice to determine if another doctor in the same circumstances would have performed in the same manner or would have acted differently and prevented the injury from occurring.
What are the Main Reasons Medical Malpractice Occurs?
Nearly 4 in every 100,000 emergency room visits end in a malpractice allegation, often leading to claims and lawsuits. The fragmented, often rushed care in an ER makes it a ripe environment for malpractice occurrences. Some commonly cited reasons for medical malpractice, including in the emergency room include:
Doctor burnout, which is experienced by 44% of doctors according to the American Medical Association
Poor recordkeeping practices
Frequent staff turnover
Improper vetting of staff qualifications
Hospitals often deal with budget cuts and understaffing which may lead to many of the above conditions in hospital ERs in Arizona.
Who is Liable in ER Medical Malpractice Cases?
Depending on the specifics of each case, liability may fall on any member of the emergency room’s medical staff. This includes:
Emergency room staff
The hospital itself in cases when the doctor who committed malpractice works directly for the hospital instead of as an independent contractor
An experienced medical malpractice attorney can navigate the complexities of determining who is liable in your ER malpractice case. A successful malpractice case requires a plaintiff to prove 4 elements:
The patient was owed a professional duty by the medical professionals
There was a breach of this duty
The patient was injured as a result of this breach
The patient experienced losses or damages as a result of their injury
What You Should and Shouldn’t Do if You Suspect Medical Malpractice in the ER Injured You
If you think a doctor or medical staffer’s error in the emergency room caused you harm, keep the following important points in mind to help with a medical malpractice case so you can gain compensation for the injury:
Go to a trusted doctor and discuss what you believe happened and accept any recommended treatment for your condition
Ask for a detailed medical report about your condition, treatment, and prognosis
Don’t reach out to the hospital or doctor for clarification or to demand a settlement
Don’t talk about your case online or vent on social media
Do everything your doctor recommends, including going to all appointments and filling all prescriptions
Ask the hospital ER for detailed copies of the medical records from your visit
Contact a medical malpractice attorney to discuss your case
Keep a journal to record all symptoms, treatments, time taken off of work, and other impacts on your quality of life
If the defendant’s attorney contacts you, don’t answer any questions, instead direct them to your attorney
With the skilled help of an experienced attorney and by following these guidelines you can maximize your chance of gaining the compensation you deserve after your injury. Remember to be thorough and detailed when discussing your case with your attorney and bring your medical records and any other documentation related to your case. A diligent attorney will investigate your case and gather the evidence needed to prove you suffered damages from malpractice in the ER.
What Can I Gain From a Medical Malpractice Case Against an Emergency Room Doctor or Staff Member?
An injury caused by a medical mistake in an ER can have a lasting impact on a person’s health and quality of life. In some cases, it can be life-altering or catastrophic. A successful malpractice claim can help you gain the financial compensation you deserve so you can focus on your medical care and recovery. About 95% of these claims settle out of court so you never have to see a courtroom. A successful claim can win you justice and compensation for the following damages if they apply to your case:
Medical expenses and future medical expenses
Lost wages and future lost wages
Pain, suffering, and emotional anguish
Reduced capacity for earning
Disability, either temporary or permanent
Loss of enjoyment of life
Preventable medical mistakes can lead to the need for ongoing medical care and multiple procedures. In some cases, it may lead to impairment, disability, or death. Victims injured due to preventable medical mistakes deserve compensation for their suffering. The average settlement or damages award for a medical malpractice claim in the U.S. is $300,000 but your compensation may be more or less depending on the specifics of your case and the severity of your injury.
How Long Do I Have to File a Claim?
Arizona’s statute of limitation for malpractice claims is 2 years after the date of the malpractice incident. One exception to this rule is in cases where a victim doesn’t know they received an injury until much later, in which case the statute is 2 years after the date that they discover the injury or when a court determines they should reasonably have discovered the injury.
It’s best to file a lawsuit as soon as possible after the injury occurs.
Quality Medical Malpractice Representation in Phoenix, Arizona
A Phoenix medical malpractice lawyer at Knapp & Roberts can provide experienced, diligent legal counsel if you need representation. Our attorneys have a long track record of successfully representing patients who have been harmed by emergency room malpractice and the families of those who died wrongfully as the result of medical negligence. At our client-centered law practice, we provide compassionate and personalized service to those whom we represent. We return phone calls, provide straightforward and honest answers to your questions, and keep you up-to-date on your case status.
Free Case Analysis
At Knapp & Roberts, a Phoenix personal injury lawyer will meet with you and perform a free analysis of your situation to determine if you have a viable claim for medical malpractice. We maintain close relationships with respected medical experts who assist us in reviewing your records and identifying what went wrong, when it went wrong, and why it went wrong. If we take your case, we will incur all the upfront expenses, and you will only pay us if we win money to compensate you for your damages.
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The personal injury attorneys in Phoenix, Arizona, at Knapp & Roberts have the compassion and trial lawyer skills to tell your story to a jury. We will get to know you and your family so that we can help the jury understand what has happened to you and your family and how it has changed your lives. Obtain the compensation necessary for the injuries and losses you have suffered.