If you or a loved one has been injured and suspect it may be the result of emergency room medical malpractice, you may be entitled to compensation for medical bills, lost income, pain and suffering and other losses. Our firm is working with some experienced ER malpractice attorneys in this area and there is no fee until you receive an emergency room medical malpractice settlement or award. Feel free to call us toll free 24/7 or contact us online for a free legal consultation.
When a medical condition requires immediate attention, emergency rooms (ERs) are often the facilities that individuals look to for their treatment. Upon entering an emergency room, patients are typically greeted by a triage nurse (usually an RN, or Registered Nurse). This individual makes the initial determination of how immediate or serious the patient’s condition is. This evaluation will often determine how long a person will wait to be seen. This nurse will also decide who will treat the patient (whether it will be another nurse or a physician) depending on the severity of the patient’s condition. When triage nurses decide that a doctor will treat a patient, it is sometimes a lack of communication and teamwork between the doctor and the nurse that can harm, or even kill patients.
Anyone who has visited an emergency room will likely say they experienced a long wait time or that the ER was overcrowded. In fact, over 100 million Americans visit the emergency room each year. Even with this large number, it is still surprising to learn the number of patients that die as a result of ER malpractice. According to the Institute of Medicine, nearly 100,000 patients die each year as a result of ER errors or malpractice. Insurance broker Aon Corporation estimates that malpractice suits arising from emergency room incidents cost about $1 billion annually (i). Additionally, the average payments and legal expenses for these emergency room cases have more than doubled over the past 20 years, according to data from the Physician Insurers Association of America (i).
Unfortunately, it is very common for serious conditions to go undiagnosed when patients visit the ER. More specifically, physicians often fail to diagnose the following serious conditions: heart attacks, strokes, cancer (breast cancer, skin cancer, lung cancer, etc.), pulmonary embolism (PE), aneurysms, and pancreatitis. Statistics indicate that half of all malpractice claims against emergency rooms stem from a faulty diagnosis (i). Other issues can certainly arise, including: errors, oversights, missing patient medical histories, no records of abnormal vital signs (such as blood pressure or heart rate), inefficient access to radiology or lab reports, or information being lost in an emergency room shift change. All of these things can result in severe consequences for ER patients.
There are many reasons why emergency room errors occur. Most notably, emergency rooms are overcrowded. Often, the hospitals are understaffed and not efficiently equipped with the necessary supplies to provide adequate treatment for the patients. This means that patients may experience very long wait times or may be sent home too early. Additionally, it may be very difficult to find specialists and other physicians with expertise in a given area to accommodate all the patients. The Wall Street Journal noted a number of these reasons, as well as the chaotic nature of emergency rooms, and the minimal data available about the new patients presenting themselves as contributing to emergency room error. The newspaper stated that diagnostic errors account for 37% to 55% of cases in studies of closed malpractice claims (i).
The shortage of employees and resources can also lead to quick decisions. The hospital staff may not order the proper tests, or could misread test results. Furthermore, if staff members rush through procedures they may forget to wash their hands, leading to patients getting hospital acquired infections (HAI). Another reason for ER malpractice is that many staff members are either poorly trained, or simply inexperienced. This inexperience and poor training could lead to miscommunication, such as providing patients with the wrong medication, or wrong dosage.