Common Emergency Room Malpractice Mistakes
Many errors can happen in the ER that cause serious harm to a patient. Some of the most common emergency room malpractice mistakes include:
Misdiagnosis or Failure to Diagnose
A doctor might misdiagnose a patient, suspecting a different injury or illness than what the patient has. They may also not provide a diagnosis soon enough or at all. Some life-threatening conditions that are commonly misdiagnosed include sepsis, cancer, heart attacks, and strokes.
This type of malpractice is especially devastating in an emergency setting, where fast and accurate answers could make the difference in saving a life.
Improper cleaning of medical tools can lead to patient infections. Equipment can quickly become contaminated and worsen a patient’s condition or cause a new condition entirely.
Medication errors can occur if the wrong dose or type of prescription is administered. An emergency room doctor or nurse might give the wrong medication or fail to consider how a drug can interact with the patient’s other medications.
General, local, and regional anesthesia require careful administration from a trained anesthesiologist. If the anesthesiologist or staff members fail to provide proper care, there can be adverse effects on a patient. Administering too little or too much anesthetic might lead to severe pain, heart attack, stroke, coma, nausea, seizures, and more.
Surgery can be stressful, especially if a patient is in critical condition and the procedure lasts hours. Unfortunately, surgical errors do happen. Doctors might leave a foreign object in a patient, accidentally cut a nerve, or perform surgery on the incorrect body part.
Refusal to Treat a Patient
Suppose a doctor or nurse refuses or delays providing care to a patient based on the patient’s insurance, method of payment, or ability to pay. In that case, it is considered a violation of the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA). Refusal of care is a form of medical malpractice with disastrous consequences on a patient’s health.
Can a Doctor Ever Refuse to Treat a Patient?
Emergency medical personnel are in a unique position from other doctors. They cannot deny care to individuals that arrive at the emergency department. EMTALA outlines standard emergency medical services that every individual at an ER is entitled to.
For example, everyone must initially be screened for emergency conditions. If ER medical personnel suspect or discover an emergency condition during an examination, the patient must be stabilized until they can be discharged or transferred appropriately.
To make an appropriate patient transfer, emergency department personnel must follow the EMTALA transfer policy to ensure the transfer is made as reasonably and safely as possible.
What Causes ER Errors?
Errors in the emergency room can occur for a multitude of reasons. Communication errors between staff members are a common factor in malpractice. Other root causes behind ER malpractice errors include:
- Inexperienced or untrained ER staff
- Improper staff-to-patient ratio, i.e., overcrowding or understaffing
- Nurse and doctor fatigue
- Technical equipment errors, i.e., a malfunctioning device
Many emergency rooms face these problems from time to time. These issues do not always lead to malpractice. Instead, they are addressed, mitigated, and further prevented.
Unfortunately, doctors and nurses can become overworked, stressed, and exhausted. Under these conditions, they may be more susceptible to making mistakes. However, there is no excuse for ER malpractice. Emergency medical professionals still owe a duty of care to patients.
Consequences of ER Malpractice
As an emergency room patient, you put your health and life in the hands of staff. When ER medical negligence occurs, the consequences can be serious or even permanent.
After ER medical malpractice, victims can experience:
- New injury or illness
- Worsening of original condition
- Chronic pain
- Emotional distress
If you are a victim of ER malpractice, you deserve a lawyer who understands your situation and its impact on your life. Researching Pennsylvania medical malpractice attorneys and finding one that works for you is essential to fighting for justice.
Can You Sue for Emergency Room Malpractice?
After malpractice in an emergency room, the thought of a lawsuit on top of your recovery might seem overwhelming. Know that it is your choice if you want to sue—your lawyer will be there for you every step of the way.
However, if you decide to pursue a medical malpractice claim, it must be within the statute of limitations. The Pennsylvania statute of limitations allows claims to be filed no later than two years after an error, with some limited exceptions.
When considering a medical malpractice claim, you should know what to expect. Every case is unique, but each must prove that the following elements of negligence were met:
- A duty of care was owed
- The duty of care was breached
- An injury resulted from the breach
- Damages resulted from the injury
Your lawyer will have the burden of proof to establish these elements. Having a dedicated legal advocate with experience in complex negligence cases is critical.
Possible Damages in an ER Malpractice Case
Victims of emergency room malpractice can recover different types of damages. These are the losses that have occurred as a result of the accident. Damages for ER malpractice include economic, non-economic, and wrongful death.
Economic damages involve compensation for past and future expenses. In medical malpractice cases, this might look like money for all your medical costs and any wage loss you experienced.
Non-economic damages are intangible losses. They are not readily associated with an exact dollar amount, making them difficult to calculate. In Pennsylvania, you can receive damages for the following non-economic losses:
- Pain and suffering
- Embarrassment and humiliation
- Loss of enjoyment of life
- Disfigurement and scarring
Wrongful death damages can apply to those who lost a loved one due to medical malpractice. Wrongful death damages can include funeral costs, loss of support or even loss of earnings the loved one would have made.
Contact an ER Malpractice Lawyer Today
Emergency room malpractice is preventable and severe, and the responsible party should be held liable. Do not hesitate to contact an ER malpractice lawyer at Atlee Hall. Our team of compassionate and thorough attorneys will stop at nothing to fight for you. At Atlee Hall, we make negligent medical professionals answer for their mistakes and help get you the compensation you deserve.