A large number of people who visit hospital emergency rooms (ERs) each year are harmed by the doctor’s, staff’s or administration’s mistakes. In fact, according to a 2012 study published in Annals of Emergency Medicine, over four percent of ER visits result in adverse events, and another five percent result in “near misses.” (Although this incidence rate is likely grossly understated due to underreporting.)
What do you do if you or a family member suffered serious harm due to negligence in the ER? You might be entitled to file a claim for compensation for damages. To find out if you qualify, call our emergency room error lawyer in Pittsburgh at Berger and Green for a free case evaluation: 412-661-1400.
What are some common types of emergency room errors?
There are a lot of things that can go wrong in an emergency room. One of the most common mistakes ER doctors and triage nurses make is misdiagnosis. Meningitis, stroke, and heart attack, for example, are often misdiagnosed in the ER; patients are wrongly sent home with flu or anxiety and later get worse or die due to the ER doctor’s oversight.
Other common ER errors include:
- Medication errors (wrong type, wrong dosage, contraindications)
- Ordering the wrong tests, failing to order tests, and misinterpreting tests
- Delayed treatment and improper triaging
- Ignoring patient’s symptoms
Another thing ER doctors and staff do that is morally and legally unethical is what is referred to as “patient dumping.” This is where patients are released or transferred because of lack of insurance and their inability to pay for services. Patient dumping is not really an error, per se; it’s more of a conscious (mal)practice. And victims have the right to file suit against the hospital if they are victim to it.
Why do hospitals make so many mistakes in the ER?
There are a lot of reasons why there are so many mistakes made in the ER, and not all of them are doctors’ or hospitals’ fault. Errors may be unpreventable when patients arrive unconscious or are otherwise unable to provide important health information, or when the number of patients suddenly exceeds the hospital’s limits such as with a natural disaster or act of terrorism. ER doctors are not perfect, after all. They must do they best they can do with any given situation at hand.
That being said, many errors are, in fact preventable. Below are just a few examples of causes for ER mistakes:
- Lack of resources and beds
- Not paying attention to symptoms, signs, or diagnostic results
- Insufficient staffing and poorly trained staff
- Lack of equipment or outdated equipment
- Overworked and tired staff (burnout)
- Not following standard protocols
- Lack of communication between staff members and between patients and doctors
- Not obtaining a medical history
Can I hold someone accountable for injuries caused by ER errors?
Not all harms patients sustain in the ER justify a malpractice suit. All medical professionals have a certain standard of care they must provide patients, but ER doctors have unique and challenging circumstances. They have to make quick decisions about critically injured or ill patients whose histories/conditions/allergies they are unfamiliar with in a chaotic, fast-paced environment. As such, ER doctors are given a little more leeway in a malpractice case than other physicians might.
Even still, when the care they provide falls short of ER doctors’ standard of care, they can be deemed negligent and therefore liable for patients’ damages. If you were hurt by preventable and unreasonable mistakes made in the ER, then you are entitled to file a medical malpractice claim against the hospital to seek compensation for your losses.
What do I need to prove in order to win my case?
There are two primary elements you need to prove to win a malpractice case for emergency room errors:
Negligence – You must show that the doctor (or other hospital staff) acted in a way that breached the standard of care. You have to prove that they acted in a negligent manner and that their error is what caused your harm. Their errors have to be unreasonable, i.e., their actions have to be such that other doctors in the same position would disagree with. Proving this typically necessitates testimony from an unbiased medical expert, along with your medical record, photos, testimonies from other patients or witnesses, etc.
Damages – You also have to be able prove the extent of your injuries and how they have affected your life, so that you can justify the damages you are pursuing. Evidence that can help prove the value of your case include bills, receipts, proof of lost wages and benefits, mental health records, prognoses, a report from a forensic economist, and expert testimonies.
How do I determine the total value of my medical malpractice case?
Calculating the value of your case takes careful and thorough consideration. All current and future expenses and lost income related to your ER injuries must be accounted for, and the emotional damages must be factored in, as well. When the injuries are serious or when the victim suffered fatal harm, it is recommended to have a financial expert help accurately tally the total value of the claim.
There are probably a lot of associated costs and incidental damages that you are not aware that you are entitled to recover. For example, many people are don’t know that they can recover things such as transportation expenses, prescriptions, counseling, and lost capacity to work. You do not want to file a legal claim or sign any settlement agreements from the hospital before having an attorney review the case and validate the value of your claim.
Let Berger and Green help you get the compensation you deserve.
If you or a loved one were hurt because of an ER mistake, our highly qualified and motivated legal team can help. Contact Berger and Green and arrange to speak with a medical malpractice attorney in Pittsburgh. Let us help you get the justice and funds you need and deserve. Call us today at 412-661-1400 for a free consult.