When Can an Emergency Room Mistake Lead to a Lawsuit?
Published on July 26, 2023
Medical mistakes that lead to patient injuries are all too common in the United States. Stunningly, recent research from John Hopkins reveals medical mistakes as the third leading cause of death in the U.S.
When sick or injured patients rush into an emergency room, they expect the medical providers there to care for them at the highest standard of care accepted by the medical community, but because the environment of an emergency room is necessarily chaotic and stressful, medical mistakes in emergency rooms are all too common and sometimes cause grave injury or even death. This type of medical malpractice can have devastating consequences. Victims of emergency room malpractice should not be left with the undue financial burdens their injury causes on top of their pain and suffering. Many victims seek compensation through a medical malpractice claim.
When can a mistake made in an emergency room lead to a lawsuit?
Common Medical Malpractice Claims in Emergency Rooms
The rushed, stress-filled environment that’s common in emergency rooms may lead to fatigued providers and dangerous or even deadly mistakes. The most common medical mistake found in emergency rooms is misdiagnosis, such as a doctor diagnosing a heart attack patient with acid reflux or indigestion. A misdiagnosis can result in improper or delayed treatment that worsens the condition. Other common medical mistakes in emergency rooms include:
Failure to order correct diagnostic tests
Delayed diagnosis and delayed treatment
Failure to detect and treat infections
Medical infections due to incorrect ER practices
Ignored hospital policies resulting in injury
Poor patient monitoring
Communication between medical staff members in chaotic emergency room environments sometimes breaks down, leading to malpractice-related injuries in patients.
Who is Liable in Emergency Room Malpractice Cases?
Liability for medical malpractice in emergency room mistakes can lie with any of the following entities depending on the circumstances of the injury. Common liable parties in ER malpractice claims include:
The individual provider if they are independent contractors with hospital privileges rather than employees of the hospital
The hospital or facility itself
A member of the emergency room support staff
A hospital could be liable for damages in an emergency room lawsuit if the medical error occurred due to negligent hiring practices, inadequate training procedures, or a mistake made by a facility employee.
Proving liability requires demonstrating the following legal points of medical liability:
That a provider/patient relationship existed at the time of the service
That the at-fault party owed a special duty of care to treat a patient at the industry-accepted standard of care
That they breached this duty by failing to treat the patient the way another reasonable medical provider would under the same circumstances
That the breach of duty caused an injury
That the injury caused the victim significant damages
Most emergency room mistake cases are settled out of court through a medical malpractice attorney’s negotiations with the appropriate malpractice insurance company. Only a small percentage of Phoenix medical malpractice lawyer cases go on to a lawsuit in court. Though court litigation may take longer than an out-of-court settlement, jury awards from lawsuits tend to be larger than typical settlements.
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