Emergency room negligence refers to preventable medical errors occurring in emergency departments. Like other medical professionals, emergency room doctors and staff are held to a certain standard of care. However, the standard of care to which emergency room personnel is slightly more forgiving to doctors, nurses, and other medical providers. This is because emergency rooms are high-stress environments where doctors must make fast decisions regarding patients’ care.
However, just like when you visit any other doctor, whether it’s your primary care physician or your dentist, you deserve to be treated properly and receive a high level of care when you visit the emergency room. Because patients visiting emergency rooms are often experiencing serious, life-threatening medical conditions, the difference between acceptable and substandard care could be a matter of life and death.
To prove an emergency room malpractice case, you will need to prove the following:
- Duty of Care: First, you must establish that the emergency room/emergency room personnel had a duty of care to you, meaning they had a legal responsibility to treat you. In most cases, proving that you sought treatment at the emergency room is sufficient in proving a duty of care.
- Breach: You must next prove that the doctor/hospital/nurse breached the duty of care, meaning they failed to provide you with a level of care one could reasonably expect from a similarly qualified emergency department/staff member in the same or similar circumstances.
- Injury: To have a case, you must also prove that you were injured. Even if the emergency room or emergency room staff was blatantly negligent or made a serious error, you only have a case if you were injured and/or suffered damages as a result of that error.
- Causation: Lastly, you must prove that the emergency room/emergency room staff’s negligence or error was the cause of your injuries/damages. In other words, you must prove that your injuries were not caused by your condition or any other factor than the defendant’s negligence.
It should also be noted, however, that the law recognizes the immense stress and pressure emergency room doctors and staff are under. As a result, it can be very difficult to prove an emergency room negligence case without the help of an experienced attorney, like those at Wolf & Fuhrman LLP. It is not enough to prove that you or your loved one’s condition did not improve after going to the emergency room; instead, you must prove that the medical professionals there failed to provide you with an acceptable level of care.
Common Emergency Room Errors
Some of the most common emergency room errors include:
- Delayed diagnosis or misdiagnosis of heart attack, stroke, and other serious health conditions
- Failure to diagnose a heart attack, stroke, and other serious health conditions
- Delayed treatment or failure to treat
- Early discharge or sending a patient home without treatment
- Triage errors, or prioritizing patients’ treatment incorrectly
- Failure to obtain a patient’s medical history information, such as medication allergies
- Failure to order/conduct tests at all or in a timely manner
- Misreading or improper analysis of test results
- Medication errors, such as under-dosing, overdosing, or administering the wrong medication
- Failure to inform patients of test results/lab findings
- Failure to provide patients with adequate aftercare and/or instructions
These and other emergency room errors can have devastating or even deadly consequences. Victims often suffer catastrophic injuries or severely worsened conditions, and many become victims of wrongful death due to emergency department negligence.
Can You Sue for Being Misdiagnosed in an Emergency Room?
If you or your loved one was misdiagnosed in an emergency room, leading to serious injury or death, you could have grounds for a lawsuit. Approximately 12 million adults in the U.S., or 1 in 20, are misdiagnosed every year, and a large percentage of those misdiagnoses occur in emergency departments. Some studies have found the rate of emergency room misdiagnosis to be much higher, affecting as many as 1 in 9 patients. More alarming still, misdiagnosis in emergency departments is associated with longer hospital stays and a greater risk of death.
One of the most common emergency room misdiagnoses involves patients who seek care due to heart attack or stroke symptoms, only to be sent home without proper testing or treatment. Once patients return home, they can experience the devastating effects of an untreated heart attack or stroke, including death.
Misdiagnosis of heart attack is much higher in women than in men, as well as in Black patients, Hispanic patients, and other patients of color. Black women and other women of color have the highest risk of heart attack misdiagnosis and are least likely to receive aggressive treatment for heart attack symptoms. Much of this is due to systemic sexism and racism in the U.S. healthcare system. Women are also more likely to present atypical heart attack symptoms, meaning their symptoms are less likely to be recognized as indicative of a heart attack.
Every patient who visits the emergency room for any reason deserves proper treatment. If you suffered a serious medical condition or injury, or if your loved one tragically passed away due to an emergency room diagnostic error, reach out to our emergency room error attorneys in the Bronx. We can help you understand your rights and legal options, including the right to file a lawsuit against the liable party.