Emergency Room Malpractice

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What is Emergency Room Malpractice?

Emergency Room Malpractice is a special type of medical malpractice.  It involves the negligent or reckless conduct by medical personnel when treating a patient who has been admitted to the emergency room. 

Emergency room malpractice is different from standard medical practice, mostly on account of the demands and pressures associated with emergency situations.  In an emergency situation, the medical staff often needs to make a snap decision on the spot, with little time to hesitate or perform extensive background research of the patient’s medical history.

Some examples of conduct involved in emergency room malpractice include:

Who Can be Held Liable for Emergency Room Malpractice?

In general, it’s usually the persons who are employed with the hospital, working in the emergency room that can be held liable for emergency room malpractice.  These include the doctors, nurses, and other medical personnel who have duties connected with the emergency room.  In other cases, the hospital itself can be held liable for authorizing acts that constitute malpractice. 

Who are “First Responders”?  Can They be Held Liable for Emergency Room Malpractice?

First responders are the persons who are first to respond to an emergency call and provide medical care to the injured patient.  These include ambulance and paramedic crews, emergency medical technicians (EMT’s), and firefighters. 

Most states have statutes that grant extra protection to first responders.  As mentioned, emergency situations have the effect of lowering professional standards, in order to make room to consider the pressures of the emergency.  First responders may have some leeway with regards to the decisions they make when responding to victims of emergencies.

Of course, first responders are not totally immune to liability.  They can still be held liable for actions that are very negligent or involve a gross disregard of the patient’s safety.  However, their liability is likely to be separate from that of the actual emergency room personnel.

What are Some Other Considerations Regarding Emergency Room Malpractice?

One of the main considerations in many malpractice claims is informed consent.  In non-emergency medical surgeries, the doctor needs to obtain the patient’s informed consent before proceeding with surgery.  A doctor can be held liable for medical malpractice if the fail to inform the patient of the risks involved with the surgery, or if they fail to obtain their consent to the procedure. 

On the other hand, informed consent rules can change drastically in an emergency room situation.  For example, the doctor may need to perform an emergency surgery in order to save the patient’s life.  Additionally, the patient may be unconscious due to the emergency or accident. 

In such a situation, the doctor may need to perform the procedure without obtaining the patient’s consent.  Liability can also change because many emergency room doctors are independent contractors and not the patient’s normal physician.  All of these factors can change the rules regarding informed consent, and these rules can vary by state. 

Thus, in an emergency room malpractice claim, it’s often necessary to hire a lawyer and an expert witness to sort out which parties are liable for malpractice- whether it be the doctor, nurses, staff, or the hospital.

Do I Need to Hire a Lawyer if I Have an Emergency Room Malpractice Claim?

Emergency room malpractice can present some challenging and complex legal issues.  If you have been involved in emergency room malpractice, you may wish to hire a personal injury lawyer for advice and representation in court.  A qualified personal injury attorney in your area can provide you with the legal expertise needed to succeed in a malpractice suit. 

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Last Modified: 04-13-2012 04:17 PM PDT

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